[This is the second part of a three-part series advocating wolf restoration in the Adirondacks. If you missed the first part which considers the ecological importance of carnivores, please consider reading “Restore the Adirondack Wolf“, and the last part of the series is “Return Wolves to Increase Public Safety“. Special thanks to Lake Placid based nature conservation photographer Larry Master (www.masterimages.org) for permission to feature his wolf photographs in this post.]
Economic Benefits of Wolf Restoration
Wolves and Cougars could enhance local and regional economies in at least two ways. First, these top predators will allow hardwoods to regenerate, which will help woods product industries. In some parts of the East, over-browsing by deer has virtually halted hardwood regrowth.
So far, the Adirondacks and Northern Appalachians have had cold and snowy enough winters to prevent massive deer overshoot, but with warming climate we could face the same eating down of the forest that parts of the Southern and Central Appalachians are already facing.
(For a preview of what our forests could look like with continued warming and too few top predators, walk Shawangunk woods, where you will find many thorny plants but very few wildflowers or hardwood seedlings.)
Second, the return of our charismatic megafauna would attract numerous wildlife-watchers, bolstering the tourism industry. Hundreds of thousands of tourists a year visit Yellowstone National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in hopes of seeing, or at least hearing, a pack of Wolves. The Adirondack Park could become the Boundary Waters of the Northeast if we welcomed back the big animals we exterminated last century, to the enrichment of guides, hotel and restaurant owners, and other local business-people.
Social Benefits of Wolf Restoration
Welcoming back the carnivores we shot out long ago would also benefit us ethically. Perhaps more than any other natural phenomena, carnivores test our decency, morality, and ethics. Generous people live and let live, all native species, even if some are at times vexing.
Carnivores demand of us foresight and restraint, as they slowly improve the health of our shared ecosystems yet need big wild cores and connections between them to flourish. I believe North Americans’ response to large carnivores is one of the ultimate ethical tests of our time (along with addressing the larger but related extinction and climate crises).
The aesthetic benefits of Cougar and Wolf restoration are obvious to anyone who loves seeing beautiful animals in the wild. The aesthetic benefits, though, go way beyond the beauty of the creatures themselves (and it should be admitted: only a lucky few will ever so much as glimpse a Cougar, so shy and elusive are they; and even the more communal and louder Wolves will be invisible to anyone not looking carefully).
Return of top carnivores would mean healthier, richer wildflower and songbird populations. Our forests and streams would be more beautiful and more musical once carnivores have restored natural balances.
Continue reading this wolf restoration series:
Note: The content in this blog post was repurposed and a revised version is included in John Davis’s book Split Rock Wildway: Scouting the Adirondack Park’s Most Diverse Wildlife Corridor published by Essex Editions on Nov. 21, 2017. Learn more about the book and where to buy it at essexeditions.com. Watch the book trailer below.
- Songbird Mysteries (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Misplaced Fear of Cougars (and Other Predators) (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- We Should Welcome Cougars Back (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- American Eels in the Lake Champlain Basin (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Moose in the Adirondacks (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Snowy Owl Sighting (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Creating and Protecting a Wildlife Corridor (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Scientists call for global carnivore protections (gazettetimes.com)
- Loss of large carnivores hurts ecosystems (main.omanobserver.om)
- Is your diet killing wolves? (csmonitor.com)