Wolfwatcher: Reflections for the New Year
January 1, 2012
At this time of year, it is always a good practice to reflect upon the journey we have started in an effort to fine-tune our focus as we continue our work in the New Year.
Needless to say, this has been a difficult year for wolf watchers. With the passing of Sen. Tester’s (MT) wolf delisting rider in 2011, we have seen the hunts in the Northern Rockies take a serious toll on wolf populations in Idaho and Montana while the anti-wolf rhetoric from special interests continues to escalate. We lost Yellowstone wolves 642M and 692F, and for those who knew them well from visits to the park, our hearts remain heavy with their loss. We noted that Wyoming has proposed a wolf management plan that can recklessly remove protections for gray wolves in a manner that can potentially unravel the scientific recovery of wolves across the entire region. In the Pacific Northwest, we witnessed Oregon and Washington State adopt wolf management plans that are seemingly more progressive and accepting of wolves across their respective landscapes. Yet, special interest groups, like ranching associations and hunting organizations, continue their well-choreographed and far reaching campaigns which denounce science-based decision making and promote an insidious fear which jeopardize the strides that have been made thus far. Despite this, the historic 800 mile trek of one lone wolf from Oregon’s Imnaha pack, “OR-7,” has captured the hearts and minds of people around the globe; unknowingly, this wolf has inspired the passion of wolf watchers who see his brave journey as a symbol of hope for its species. In the Western Great Lakes, we learned of the Obama Administration’s recent delisting of the gray wolf in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan; although we celebrate the recovery of the gray wolf in this region, we also await news of these states’ respective wolf management plans and expect that science will prevail. And finally in the Southwest, we know the federal government’s wildlife managers hoped to have at least one hundred wolves in the wild by now. Yet, at present, only fifty wolves roam the wild lands of Arizona and New Mexico. The federal government’s refusal to release enough wolves into the wild threatens the very biodiversity that is needed to ensure the future recovery of the Mexican gray wolf in our country. Yes, indeed, it has been a difficult year. But hope must prevail!
Despite the challenges we face, wolf watchers have grown stronger as an extended family – a growing number of people across the nation who seek to celebrate and share the good news about the important role that wolves play in the maintenance of healthy ecosystems! We attend and speak respectfully at local and regional meetings, and we respond in writing to media coverage and government agency proposals. We provide information and present programs that educate people within and around the wolf’s historic range. We consult with experts in science and law to learn more about the issues at hand so we can speak and act responsibly. We collaborate with other wildlife groups that share our common mission, and we offer our collegial partnership in mutual actions. We visit and support wolf conservation centers throughout the nation because their staff and their ambassador wolves provide the best education for those who seek to learn more about this apex predator. We nurture and encourage the younger generation who, with education, offer us the best hope for change in the future. And last but not least, we enthusiastically support eco-tourism in locations where wolves roam freely to foster an appreciation for the vital role wolves play in nature and the habitat that supports them. We also demonstrate our support for the people who afford us these unique opportunities because they share our values about wolf conservation in places where tolerance still needs to be nurtured. So, are you a wolf watcher, too?
No doubt, the challenges we face are formidable and there are no easy solutions or quick fixes. However, we believe that positive, informed and assertive action is the best tool to encourage a long-term solution when it comes to wolf recovery. As scientist and educator Dr. Jim Halfpenny advised us recently regarding the recent loss of Yellowstone wolf 692F, “Perhaps the killing of 692F goes deeper than the poor sportsmanship of an irresponsible hunter. Angry words and the actions of members of the pro-wolf community affect how others react to wolves. Extreme actions or extreme philosophical views seldom win many friends, and wolves need friends. The cadre of wolf watchers must strive to positively influence those who vote on wolf issues, whether that vote be by ballot or by bullet. Watchers must avoid alienation because the battle to win hearts and minds of the voting public will span the next several generations of youth. Let your actions speak for the wolves!”