Monday, April 19, 2010

40th Anniversary of Earth Day-The Lesson of Yellowstones Cottonwood Pack

April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. It should be a time to celebrate all that has been accomplished in the last 40 years but there is too much that has been accomplished only to be undone again by greed, mis-information, and failure to grasp the full extent what's at stake when a species disappears from the earth. I am and have been for some time now an advocate of wolf reintroduction programs around the country and until recently I have been buoyed by the apparent successes especially at Yellowstone National Park.
When I first became aware of the wolves of Yellowstone it was through watching a few documentaries and an occasional e-mail update. It wasn't until I received an invitation to to see a screening of Lords of Nature from Defenders of Wildlife here in Tucson that I began to realize that something magnificent was going on in Yellowstone and in other areas of the country that was revolutionizing our understanding of the role large predators play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Remove large predators from their natural habitats and the habitat retracts and is diminished, other species either over-populate or die off, streams erode, some plants disappear, others invade. We also learned from the Yellowstone wolves that when they are returned to their place in the environment that the negative effects of their absence begin to reverse and the land starts to heal. I remember how excited I was that Yellowstone had begun it's healing after years of the wolves absence from the park. I felt a strange renewal in myself as well because I now knew that there was hope for the earth and I had seen the proof.
At the time I was unaware that the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar had removed the Gray Wolf from it's endangered species designation and states were planning to hunt wolves once again. It was a few short weeks after the screening that news came of the destruction of the Yellowstone National Parks famous Cottonwood Pack. I couldn't believe that anyone could do such a heinous thing and I was deeply saddened. The next morning I sat down and wrote a heart felt editorial for my blog that to this day still attracts regular visits to my site.
The graying black alpha female 527F was dead and so was the beta female 716F and all of the other adults in the pack destroyed as well, shot with the collars that they wore for scientific research. As cruel as this act was it was only the beginning of an all out assault on wolves which leads me to the lesson of the Cottonwood Pack. If we are ever to achieve lasting success for wolf reintroduction or any other important environmental issue than we must develop 10, 20, 30, 100 year plans that address how to prevent the kind of backsliding that the killing of the Cottonwood Pack and wolf hunting in general represents. It should have been easy to see this coming but our eye was on the wonder of the wolves and not on the enemies of the wolf. The Endangered Species Act will only provide a short respite for those species in trouble. Returning a species to health so that it may be hunted back to near extinction is senseless and heart breaking. There has to be a better way.

Ray Goodwin
Sonoran Connection

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