Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Building with wolves
Wolves, as you have undoubtedly heard, are once again thriving in Yellowstone. The 66 trapped in Canada and released in Yellowstone and the Idaho wilderness in 1995-96 have generated more than 1,700 wolves. To the delight of scientists and tourists — and the dismay of many ranchers — more than 200 wolf packs exist in the area today. Courts and government agencies are still sorting out how the wolves should be managed. But one thing is abundantly clear: The reintroduction has succeeded in ways that extend far beyond the health of the wolves themselves. It has reshaped an entire ecosystem. When we exterminated wolves from Yellowstone in the early 1900s, we de-watered the land. That's right; no wolves eventually meant fewer streams, creeks, marshes and springs across western landscapes like Yellowstone where wolves had once thrived. The chain of effects went roughly like this: No wolves meant that many more elk crowded onto inviting river and stream banks. A growing population of fat elk, in no danger of being turned into prey, gnawed down willow and aspen seedlings before they could mature. As the willows declined, so did beavers, which used the trees for food and building material. When beavers build dams and make ponds, they create wetland habitats for countless bugs, amphibians, fish, birds and plants, as well as slowing the flow of water and distributing it over broad areas. The consequences of their decline rippled across the land. Meanwhile, as the land dried up, Yellowstone's overgrazed riverbanks eroded. Spawning beds for fish silted over. Amphibians lost precious shade. Yellowstone's web of life was fraying...more