Economic Consequences of the Wolf Comeback in the Western United States
November 2, 2022
Gray wolves were eradicated from most of the United States in the 1940’s but have made a comeback in parts of their historic range over the last two decades. First reintroduced into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and central Idaho in the mid-1990’s, wolves have subsequently dispersed into at least 7 western states. Coloradoans became the latest state to take interest in bolstering wolf populations, as residents passed a ballot initiative in November 2020 to reintroduce a self-sustaining population of gray wolves by the end of 2023. Conflicts between people in rural areas that might incur costs (such as livestock loss) and people in urban areas geographically removed from direct contact with wolves suggest that the distribution of benefits may not align uniformly with the distribution of costs. Given that Colorado will imminently make many policy decisions that have an impact on costs and benefits, we review available literature to better understand the magnitude of gainers and losers from wolf reintroduction in western states. Although no single study has included all possible economic values, the magnitude of impacts can be inferred by assembling a broad range of estimates for different types of values into a single space. Our review of existing valuation literature from western states indicates that the magnitude of economic benefits of wolves is many times higher than what it costs to manage wolves and to reduce or compensate for losses to livestock producers and others.
Author(s): Dana Hoag, Stewart W. Breck, Kevin Crooks, Becky Niemiec