A North American Wolf Vision
Beautiful, strong, and wild, America’s wolves once ranged across most of the United States. More than a symbol of wilderness, scientists agree that wolves have kept nature in balance and have helped maintain healthy populations of other important species. But, centuries of hunting, trapping, poisoning, and a government-sponsored eradication campaign had essentially eliminated wolves from the American landscape.
Today, thanks to the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, wolves are finally beginning to recover in wild places and are once again a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage. Gray wolves returned on their own to the Western Great Lakes region and northwest Montana and were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. We have also returned gray wolves to a small area of the high desert Southwest, and red wolves to a portion of eastern North Carolina.
However, the current restoration efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) endeavor only to recover small, geographically isolated populations encompassing a relatively insignificant portion of their historic range. And although gray wolves are slowly making their way into places such as Oregon and Washington — and one wolf has made it to California — the FWS has no plans to restore wolves to substantial areas of suitable habitat that exist in places such as the Southern Rocky Mountains, New England and, in the case of the red wolf, the remainder of the Southeast. In fact, the current FWS proposal will strip protections of the Endangered Species Act for all gray wolves, except for the tiny population that is struggling to survive in the Southwest.
If the current proposal is approved, it will allow states to engage in widespread shooting, trapping and poisoning of gray wolves. Any gray wolves attempting to repopulate additional portions of their former range could be heavily targeted for persecution. In the absence of legal protection, these wolves may never be able to establish sustainable populations across much of their suitable habitats.
We envision the return of the wolf to its rightful place in North American wild lands; where humans dwell with increasing respect and acceptance for this wild species. We call for the recovery of wolves across North America, filling their critical roles in nature, and providing hope and inspiration to communities. Such recovery means:
- Restoration of wolves in suitable habitats across North America, from the Northern Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico to the Canadian Rockies, and from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and California to the Upper Great Lakes, the Northeast, and the Southeast as well.
- Protection and restoration of all suitable wolf habitats and the crucial corridors that link these habitats together, at the local, regional, and continental scales, allowing wolves to roam freely across a network of interconnected wild lands.
- Restoration of wolves in ecologically and evolutionarily effective populations so that they may fulfill their natural keystone role of ecosystem regulation, aiding the continued diversity of native flora and fauna.
- Increasing Social acceptance and appreciation by humans for the role that stable wolf populations play in reestablishing healthy landscapes across North America.