Elk and playing god

  Dear HCN,

Fred Wagner's essay on elk in Yellowstone begs for a response. While I won't suggest that the Park Service doesn't occasionally attempt to control what is said or done with regard to park policy, I don't think they are "destroying" Yellowstone as Wagner or his graduate student, Charles Kay, allege. Wagner's ideas are like the same outcries that arose over the fires of 1988. They come from people with a limited perspective.

Just as one can't predict or control ultimately how many acres of a forest burns, we can't predict nor should we decide how many elk is correct. Rather it is the processes that we should maintain. With this in mind, the Yellowstone's wildlife policies are better than those on most lands in the country. But people with a "management" or "control" background like Wagner and Alston Chase simply can't envision leaving things alone and always assume they know what's best for the landscape. If that isn't playing god in Yellowstone, I don't know what is.

George Wuerthner

Eugene, Oregon

George Wuerthner has written two books on Yellowstone's natural history and ecology.

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