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A Different Stimulus Plan: Wolves for the Southern Rockies

Report Documents the Science and Public Sentiment Behind Restoring Top Carnivore

DENVER - WildEarth Guardians has released a report to policymakers and key members of Congress detailing the science behind the need to return wolves to the Southern Rocky Mountains-a vast region stretching from south central Wyoming to north central New Mexico and that includes most of western Colorado. The report, “A Vision for Wolves in the Southern Rocky Mountains,” also explores the strong public support for returning the embattled species to the state, and the economic payback from doing so. Importantly, the report examines the potential role that Rocky Mountain National Park should play in regional wolf recovery and dispels claims that the Park is “too small” for wolf recovery. The report is available for download here.

“It’s time to weave wolves back into the landscape of Colorado and northern New Mexico,” said Rob Edward of WildEarth Guardians. “It’s time for places like Rocky Mountain National Park to be given some relief from scores of sedentary elk,” said Edward, referring to the fact that wolves keep elk and deer vigilant, thus relieving young trees and plants from excessive browsing. “It’s time for the government to become good stewards of the Southern Rocky Mountains.”

Although wolves have been taken off of the federal list of imperiled species in places like the Great Lakes states and the Northern Rockies, they remain listed as endangered in much of the lower forty-eight states. According to Edward, much remains to be done for wolves-and thus for the ecosystems that wolves drive.

“The government acts as if the job is done,” said Edward. “It is definitely not done. Wolves presently occupy less than five percent of their original range in the lower forty-eight states. The Southern Rockies should now be a top priority for wolf restoration.”

Notably, the report explains that wolf recovery in the region could easily be initiated in Rocky Mountain National Park and adjoining national forest lands. The Park, along with adjoining forest lands and wilderness areas, totals over 2.1 million acres-ample room for initiating wolf recovery in the region.

“Rocky Mountain National Park can and should follow the example of Yellowstone,” said Edward. “They should light the lamp of wolf restoration for the region.”

The report is a clarion call for wolf reintroduction in the Southern Rockies, and it underscores the fact that the jury is in: the Southern Rocky Mountains have plenty of room and prey for wolves, but they will not re-colonize the region on their own. Edward points out that the call for returning wolves to the Southern Rockies is rooted as much in the need for wolf predation as an ecological process-much like wildfire-as it is rooted in the best interest of recovering the species.

WildEarth Guardians has provided the report to key members of Congress and the Senate, the governors of Colorado and New Mexico, and the regional director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Its delivery marks a new phase in the campaign to weave wolves back into the ecological fabric of the Southern Rockies. Notably, the report underscores that some political leaders have a clear understanding of the need for wolves to be welcomed back into much of the West. In particular, the report quotes Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO, now serving in the Senate) from the introduction to a book on the subject of returning wolves to the Southern Rockies, titled "Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home":

"I believe that the human soul is stirred when a hawk’s high-pitched chirp echoes down a river canyon, when the crack of horn-butting Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep sounds off the granite walls of a high mountain valley, or when trout ripple the surface of a still lake.

"The call of a wolf used to evoke similar respect for our natural world. We can experience that again, and we need not fear the wolf’s return. It can remind us of the West as it once was and as we hope to see it become, a West where opportunities are endless, where the human spirit can be uplifted and rejuvenated, and where human development and habitation can coexist with nature in its wildest forms." - Congressman Mark Udall, from the introduction to "Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home."

Edward made clear that WildEarth Guardians aim to harness the powerful sentiment contained in Senator Udall’s words to galvanize support for wolves amongst Colorado’s political leaders.

“The Southern Rockies need wolves, and wolves need the Southern Rockies,” said Edward. “We need the political establishment to recognize this simple and important truth.”

To download the report, click here. For further information, contact Rob Edward, WildEarth Guardians' Carnivore Recovery Director, at (303) 353-1477 or redward@wildearthguardians.org.


 

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