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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wolf Conservation Gets a Boost

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been struggling with how to respond to the slow, but inevitable movement of wolves into Washington. To say it is controversial would be an understatement. Most ranchers and hunters have no use at all for wolves. Most conservationists and wildlife lovers think we should do everything possible to bring them back. I, of course, am in the latter group. The big debate is over how large the wolf population should be in Washington. Should it be eight breeding pairs (about 60-70 wolves) as the ranchers and hunters think? Or should it be much much higher as the conservationists claim. WDFW tried to resolve this controversy by bringing together a citizen panel to negotiate a number acceptable to all. This group came up with 15 breeding pairs (about 110-130 wolves) as a compromise conservation target for the state. Uhhh... not much better than eight breeding pairs. One would think that conservation science could and should serve as the fair arbiter of this debate and not negotiations between conflicting stakeholder groups. Unfortunately, good science has largely been absent from the debate between stakeholder groups. WDFW has taken the right step to seek out a scientific review of the wolf conservation plan. You can read the results yourself by clicking on scientific review. Most of the science reviewers found the 15 breeding pairs goal to be way too low. Suggestions for a more appropriate number ranged from about 25-30 breeding pairs (more than 200 wolves) up to 600+ wolves. It is clear that more focused state specific conservation biology research is needed before WDFW sets a conservation goal. Let's hope WDFW bites the bullet and lets science determine wolf conservation goals. I fear they may ask ranchers and hunters to assess the validity of the scientific review findings. Hmmmm....
Stay tuned. More to follow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dayton Duncan on Ken Burns' "National Parks" series explains the wolf-aversion of many by saying they were the ones who refused to come over and sit by the fire with us, and we've had a grudge against them ever since.