Thursday, October 25

Howlin' for wolves

Environmental groups have their lawyers on hold because Rocky Mountain National Park hasn't done enough to plan for the return or reintroduction of wolves.

Rocky Mountain National Park Needs Wolves

Conservationists may sue to get park howling again

Sinapu and Forest Guardians filed a notice this week with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorn and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar indicating their intent to sue over the National Park Service's lack of planning for wolf recovery within Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The notice gives the government 60 days to respond to the claims raised.

"The managers of our federal lands must be stewards of the wildlife on those lands," said Rob Edward, the Director of Carnivore Restoration for Sinapu. Edward stated the Endangered Species Act makes very clear that federal land management agencies must act to further the conservation of endangered species. "Wolves have not graced Rocky Mountain National Park for over fifty years," said Edward. "It's time for the crown jewel of the National Parks to ring anew with howls. It's time for wolves."

Nicole Rosmarino, Conservation Director for Forest Guardians in Santa Fe, underscored the need for the Park Service to be proactive on wolf recovery. "The vegetation of Rocky Mountain National Park is being rapidly depleted by scores of elk, and the Park Service's plan is to have sharpshooters kill thousands of these elk under the cover of darkness," said Rosmarino. "Yet, as we've seen in Yellowstone, restoring wolves can quickly and permanently restore the balance of nature and give the native plants and trees a break." Rosemarino pointed to published scientific information from Yellowstone that shows that native plants regenerate more quickly if elk are kept on the move by wolves, and that culling elk is not necessary if wolves are present.

Edward indicated that the plan to cull elk in the park would cost millions of dollars and stands little chance of long-term success. Sinapu has been a leading critic of the Park Service's plan to allow elk killing in Rocky Mountain National Park, but that plan has not yet been finalized. The groups say that a plan that incorporates wolf recovery could provide a perfect opportunity for the park to meet its obligation to restore wolves, as required under the Endangered Species Act. Edward indicated that if the Park Service does not choose to restore wolves as part of the plan to manage elk, then the agency must develop a separate plan to address the restoration of wolves.

The Endangered Species Act's Section 7 requires federal agencies to conserve federally protected species, including taking all measures possible to achieve species recovery.

A PDF copy of the Notice of Intent to Sue is available for download at:
The Chronicle covered the park's apparent preference for elk management via shooting instead of wolves earlier this year, as well as Congressman Mark Udall's support of that choice.

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