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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Wolves in Washington

A politically convenient compromise

Wolves are returning to Washington! This is one the most exciting things I have heard in my half century as a biologist and wildlife advocate. What worries me, though, is whether we will welcome their return or whether some will do everything possible to discourage their survival.

Biologists have learned a great deal about the recovery of endangered species. We need to build a long-term, sustainable population. This means having enough wolves to avoid inbreeding and enough wolves for the population to recover after disease epidemics or other catastrophes.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is considering a plan that would remove wolves from the state endangered species list when there are only 15 breeding pairs in the state. At that point, additional wolves could be killed to protect livestock or perhaps even hunted as big-game animals.

Fifteen wolf-breeding pairs translates to about 150 wolves. Biologists have determined minimum, genetically viable populations are closer to 500 animals. Fifteen breeding pairs is just a politically convenient compromise with those who would prefer no wolves at all.

If they accept this plan, our state wildlife agency will come up way short of what is really needed to help wolves survive.

Yes, it is very complex and the actual number varies from species to species and place to place. But, we must take into account this scientific information or we will never recover the wolf population in Washington state.

WDFW should convene a blue-ribbon panel to recommend a truly scientifically based conservation goal for wolves in the state.

— John Edwards, Seattle

Boosting the ecosystem and the economy

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) was pleased to learn of the strong public support for returning wolves to Olympic National Park [ “Can wolves restore an ecosystem?” page one, Jan. 25]. Wolves are an important part of restoring the park’s ecosystem and could benefit the local economy.

Since the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, tourists visiting the park, hoping to see a wolf, spend $35 million each year. An entire cottage industry based on leading wolf tours has been created in the communities near Yellowstone.

NPCA and the tens of thousands we represent in Washington hope the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will listen to the growing numbers that overwhelmingly support wolf recovery.

— David Graves, Seattle

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