Wolf reintroduction balances nature


Dear HCN,

Ray Ring's article "Wolf at the door" (HCN, 5/27/02: Wolf at the door) gives one the impression that things are going so well with the wolf recovery program in the Northern Rockies that any day now wolves will be marching through southern Wyoming and into Colorado. Much as we'd like that to be the case, the science does not support that claim; to the contrary, the science indicates that the only way Colorado and the rest of the Southern Rockies will see wolves reclaim the landscape is through an active reintroduction program.

In a paper due to be published in the next issue of Conservation Biology, Dr. Carlos Carroll, Mike Phillips, Dr. Nathan Schumacher and Dr. Douglas Smith indicate that the Red Desert of southern Wyoming presents a formidable barrier to the southward migration of wolves from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The lack of adequate cover, low density of prey and high density of livestock in southern Wyoming all combine to make the area a "sink" for dispersing wolves. Even Ed Bangs, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Program, publicly admits this fact.

Given this reality, and given the fact that nearly 50 world-renowned scientists recently called upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do significantly more for wolves in the lower 48 states, the success of the Northern Rockies wolf recovery program should not be used as cover for administrative efforts to abandon wolf recovery.

Multiple agency and independent studies have concluded that the Southern Rockies could support a robust population of wolves, and that a bipartisan majority of the region's residents supports an effort to repatriate wolves to the region. Elk, deer and other wild ungulate populations in the Southern Rockies ache for wolves to return to their important role here. Likewise, the aspen in places like Rocky Mountain National Park long for wolves to again keep the elk on the move (thus preventing them from over-browsing the young aspen and willows).

Reintroduction is the only sure way to return wolves to the Southern Rockies and thus restore the balance of nature. Our children and grandchildren deserve as much.

Rob Edward and Tina Arapkiles
Boulder, Colorado

Rob Edward is director of the Carnivore Restoration Program, Sinapu. Tina Arapkiles is Southwest Regional Representative of the Sierra Club.

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