Matt Skoglund, Wildlife Advocate, Livingston, Montana
While the Wolf Wars in the Northern Rockies garnered all sorts of attention over the past few years, a curious development was taking place just west of here: wolves were recolonizing parts of Oregon and Washington for the first time in many decades.
Initially, the first wolves to show up in Oregon and Washington were wolves that had dispersed west from Idaho. This was a wonderful discovery, as it demonstrated how Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies allowed the wolf population to grow and reclaim historic habitat. But this initial recovery of wolves in Oregon and Washington was still limited to the Northern Rockies.
Washington and Oregon are big states, and the eastern third of each state is technically part of the Northern Rockies Distinct Population Segment of gray wolves. So these first recolonizers in Oregon and Washington were part of the same broader population of Northern Rockies wolves as those in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. In fact, when Congress removed Endangered Species Act protections from Northern Rockies wolves this past spring (with the exception of Wyoming, where wolves remain on the endangered species list for now), the wolves in eastern Washington and Oregon also lost their federal protections.
But following this first phase of wolves dispersing into Washington and Oregon, more exciting news arrived when wolves were recently discovered in the Cascade Mountains in central Washington. DNA tests subsequently revealed that some of these wolves are descendants of wolves from British Columbia. This is a fantastic development, as significant viable wolf habitat exists in the Pacific Northwest, and, as my colleagues and I have previously written, the return of a native apex predator like the wolf benefits the entire ecosystem.
We’re thrilled about the return of wolves to the Pacific Northwest, and, going forward, NRDC will be stepping up its efforts to help wolves establish a sustainable population in the land of huge trees and lots of rain. We will work with local conservation groups in the Pacific Northwest, such as Conservation Northwest and Oregon Wild, and we will push Washington, Oregon, and the federal government to manage wolves responsibly and give wolves in the Pacific Northwest room to develop a legitimate, sustainable population.
Last summer, my wife and I explored the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, and, this past spring, we drove out to the west coast of Vancouver Island. Wild steelhead, lush rainforests, cold-water surfing, strong coffee, great beer – what’s not to love about the Pacific Northwest? Up to now, the only thing missing has been wolves.
But that’s finally starting to change.
Share on Facebook