Thursday, December 08, 2016

Western Colorado hospitable for wolf recovery

Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF), advocated for the reintroduction of gray wolves in Western Colorado Tuesday night in Aspen. Phillips described the recovery and conservation of gray wolves as “most germane to the future of Colorado.” “I’m trying to prime the pump of education to get Coloradans to recognize the great possibilities that exist from wolf reintroduction,” he said. Despite the power of the TESF, “no private entity or conservation NGO (non-governmental organization) has the capacity to do a wolf reintroduction project. They are entirely too big in scope spatially, legally, and politically. They have to be done by either the federal or state government,” Phillips said in stressing the importance of educating the public. “Our project won’t matter if people don’t know about it,” he added. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which strives to promote ecological literacy, hosted the event. “We just want to get the information out there,” said Samuel Hinkle, an ACES naturalist. “Wolves are a controversial subject,” he explained. “We want people to know what wolves do for our eco systems.” Phillips described the benefits of wolf recovery in terms of a “trophic cascade.” Essentially, that the reintroduction of wolves in Western Colorado will have a widespread effect resulting from the predation of elk. Most directly, it has the potential to cleanse the herd and mitigate the prevalence of chronic wasting disease. If wolves have a “big enough effect on prey, it can benefit willows and Aspens for example. They can grow more robust and many species can benefit from that,” he said. However, a trophic cascade depends on “density and persistence. If wolves are an ecological engineer, it’s because they’re common and persistent.” In other words, there have to be enough wolves for enough time for an area to see any widespread benefits...more

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