Monday, December 30, 2013

#364 / Wolves And The Web

The Winter 2013 edition of the Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine is devoted to a celebration of the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice, which used to be the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, is now an independent nonprofit organization. The Earthjustice motto is "Because the Earth Needs A Good Lawyer." 

Wolves need a good lawyer, too.

In the magazine, there is a special feature on wolves. Since my family and I were just in Yellowstone National Park last year, seeing real wolves (through spotting scopes), I paid particular attention. 

In the 1920's, thinking it was doing something good for the environment, the federal government permitted the extermination of Yellowstone's gray wolf, leading to a trophic cascade

  • Elk populations exploded, resulting in severe overgrazing of the willows and aspens needed by beavers for food, shelter and dam building. 
  • Scavenger species suffered population reductions because they did not have year-round wolf kills to feed on. 
  • Beavers virtually disappeared. Dams disintegrated, turning marshy ponds into streams. Heavy stream erosion resulted, with many plant and animal species being adversely affected. 
  • Without wolves, the coyote became the apex predator, driving down populations of pronghorn antelope, red fox, and rodents, and birds that prey on small animals. 

It turns out that human efforts to "run" nature, by killing off wolves, unravelled the web of life that supports all living things. 

A brand New Year is coming up. Now would be a good time to make a resolution that we will resist the temptation to think that human beings should be in charge of the Natural World. Each of us, individually, could pledge to ourselves to do something about that. For instance, we might each provide financial support to groups like Earthjustice. You can donate to Earthjustice by clicking this link

The Earth needs a good lawyer.

And we need the Earth. 

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1 comment:

  1. What Earth Justice calls "unrestricted wolf killing" is nothing of the sort.

    The ultimate goal of the Endangered Species Act is to save threatened species from extinction by rebuilding habitat and population, at which point the species is removed from the list.

    Delisting signifies success, not tragedy.


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