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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Wolf Reintroductions

Air Date: Week of

Under the Endangered Species Act wolf populations have been restored in a number of states such as Minnesota and Idaho, places you’d normally think of as wolf habitat. But wolves in the Borscht Belt? Commentator Rocky Barker says there’s a new proposal for wolf reintroduction in this more unlikely part of the country.


CURWOOD: Thanks to wolf reintroduction programs, the numbers of wolves is rising in many parts of the country, including Idaho, Michigan, Wyoming, and North Carolina. And that's prompted at least one member of Congress to sponsor, well, a unique plan to bring wolves back into the Northeast. Commentator Rocky Barker says that the Protecting America's Wolves Bill, or PAWS, has an unlikely sponsor.

BARKER: An Idaho Congressman says more is missing from New York's Catskill Mountains than Borscht Belt comedians and the Last of the Mohicans. Representative Mike Simpson wants to restore eastern timber wolves to the forests of the Catskills. As Henny Youngman might have said, "Take my wolves ... please!"

Part of Mr. Simpson's motivation is to give New York representatives a taste of their own medicine. Like most Republicans from the West, he resents how Eastern members of Congress pad their environmental records with bills that restrict the use of Western public lands. In 1995, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents released Canadian wolves in the wilderness of his southern Idaho district. This brought loud protests from nearly all of the state's politicians. Representative Simpson argues that restoring endangered wolves to the East is as important as saving them in the West.

The Catskills may not be as big as Idaho's wilderness, but it's not exactly the size of a postage stamp. The area, first popularized by James Fenimore Cooper in his stories of frontiersman Natty Bumpoe , still has 700,000 acres of park land. More than a third is designated as forever wild. Bringing in wolves would help control growing numbers of deer, not just in the Catskills but across the East.

But Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley of the Bronx doesn't like the proposal. "This is a wolf in sheep's clothing," he says. "Putting wolves in the Catskills is like putting them in Manhattan." Wolves rarely harm humans, but Mr. Crowley does have a point. The Catskills is only 100 miles northeast of New York City, and critics of restoration say the area has too many roads and people that would threaten long-term wolf survival.

Farmers in the East and West would agree that wolves endanger their livestock. Maybe Ted Turner's Endangered Species Fund has the answer. Use shock-collars to teach wolves to lose their taste for beef. Hey, how about collars to keep New Yorkers away from wolves? Maybe Big Apple residents can make a place for wolves alongside the bulls and the bears of Wall Street. And for those who argue against bringing non-native wolves from Canada to the Empire State, if Hillary Clinton can make a go of it, why not Canis lupus? Or, perhaps there is an open spot on Broadway. Goodbye, ñCats.î Hello, wolves.

(Music up and under: Sinatra: "And if I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere. It's up to you, New York, New York. New York.")

CURWOOD: Commentator Rocky Barker writes for the Idaho Statesman. He is also author of "Saving All the Parts: Reconciling Economics and the Endangered Species Act."



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