Wolves are a controversial subject no matter which way you look at it. I can’t even mention “wolf” on my Facebook page without seeing comments erupting into the comment feed about how much they’re destroying the planet, causing global warming, and will be the future cause of the Sun going supernova. The subject reached an escalated tension once wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List, which then opened them up to legal (and illegal) hunting.
Perhaps wolves should not be on the Endangered Species List though, nor even grizzly bears. Instead, such animals would be much more suited to be on a Revered Species List, ensuring protection of them in the same manner that a national park protects the peaks and surrounding areas of the Teton Mountains and the Yosemite Valley. An accurate understanding of wildlife was only just beginning to blossom into what it is today when most national parks were established, thus making only minor changes, if any, to account for the native wildlife that already inhabited the area. Upon Grand Teton National Park’s establishment, wolves and grizzly bears were not even considered from its studies due to not having a presence in the area. Therefore, much of the protection that the local wildlife currently enjoys is a result of already established boundaries which were only added on to account for larger herd animals. As a result, all across the country, predatory species have been left out of the discussion when it comes to protection, despite proven benefits to every region they occupy. Areas to roam and explore are essential to their survival, and protection of such behavior is mandatory to see these species survive in the long-term. Do we yet live in a world where such a concept can be accepted, or is this just another delusional fantasy from a person who values the treasures found throughout every corner and crevice of wild nature, rather than just the bits and pieces that the opponents of these animals favor over less-profitable factors? Surely we’ve come far enough by now to accept that all wildlife native to an area is a key component of a healthy environment. How much more science and research is it going to take to finally do something with all of this data?
Animals deserve more protection than arbitrary boundaries recommend and suggest. They know no boundaries and are thus, destined to cross them as they persistently try to reclaim their homes that were stripped away from them like Native Americans. They can’t understand how a tree that looks suitable for rest and repose might be just a few steps outside of federal care and protection, thus allowing it to be shot. The mountains, valleys, canyons, and scenic wonders of our admirable national parks have stayed stagnant and consistent throughout our observable history. The wildlife that inhabits them, however, moves and migrates as some areas become too dense with their kin, pushing them onward to new sights that only their ancestors knew. At times, even changing weather patterns can cause an animal to seek new potential territory. Should we then create a new boundary or park, or is it more logical to protect the species as a whole and allow it protection wherever it feels compelled to explore?
To ensure protection beyond scenic wonders, I believe it necessary to create something along the lines of a Revered Species List for a large number of animals inhabiting this Earth with us. Wolves, grizzly bears, polar bears, tigers, lions, dolphins, and whales are just a few of the species that come to mind that bear such a powerful and commanding presence, that their mere gaze into your eyes transcends your rational mind and you can feel them pleading for better protection, should you be lucky enough to make eye contact with such an awe-inspiring creature. If we’re not willing to save a species that could be considered a national treasure, then we’ve lost sight of the entire national park idea itself. Possibilities like this are like the flowers that come into bloom every spring. Following that through, if not acted upon soon enough, that window of opportunity fades into the past just as the flower’s vibrant color gives way to an oncoming season. Are we willing to preserve that flower of opportunity here and now or let it die off with the species it will take with it? The passenger pigeon would have something to say about the latter.
It took a great deal of foresight for people such as John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to overcome their vocal opponents and preserve our natural wonders found scattered across this scenic country. Who will have the foresight in these times to step up and preserve and protect the wildlife trying to find a suitable place to call home as it works feverishly against violent opposition to regain its natural balance? They have small pockets of protection in national parks, certainly, but these areas do not provide a large enough area to ensure a diverse genetic pool to perpetuate a healthy species. Even Yellowstone National Park, as large as it is, is considering importing other grizzlies to improve genetics in its existing inhabitants. The only logical alternative to such a situation is to either expand park boundaries across the country to allow more migrations for predatory species, or protect the species themselves from danger.
These animals need protection and care to move safely from one corridor to another, allowing breeding with their kind in different regions and maintaining a healthy population overall. If we don’t preserve the inalienable right for these animals to interact with other members of their species easily and frequently, it will have disastrous consequences on the entire species, as well as the benefits they bring to the landscape, both known and unknown.