Olympic National Park Ready for Wolves?
I could hardly believe my eyes when this newspaper article popped up on my screen - "Wolf proponents pack Sequim meeting hall." Sequim is in the rain shadow of Olympic National Park, and it had been a very long time since I had seen "wolf" and "Olympic" mentioned in the same article. About 10 years ago there was a big push to restore the wolf population in Olympic. It was the type of story that was written about a lot, generated a lot of passion on both sides of the fence, and then one day, seemingly, it disappeared off the map.
To restore a species such as the wolf takes a lot of time. In Yellowstone National Park, for instance, it took 13 years between the time the first recovery plan was released to the public, in 1982, to the time the first wolves were released in the park, in January of 1995. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the wolf story has not died on the Olympic peninsula after all this time.
It has been said, time heals all wounds, and while that might not be universally true in the wolf debate, I have heard from a friend who attended the Sequim meeting that the tenor of the gathered crowd had changed since the meetings of yore. Instead of angry cattleman arguing against angry environmentalists, of the roughly 100 people at the meeting nearly all were in support of the state of Washington taking the steps necessary to bring the wolf home to the mountains of Olympic. A sampling of public comment from the crowd (pulled from the newspaper article):
"I want a bumper sticker that says 'Wolves NOW'"
"[I] wanted to be part of something good"
In Yellowstone, wolves "enhanced the ecosystem"
What a shift in attitude since the late 90s when public outcry killed the original plan. What amazed me most was this comment in response to a photo of a snarling wolf on the front page of the local paper:
That was a very poor choice. This image is not representative of normal wolf behavior.
Not even a decade ago that type of image would draw people out of the safety of their homes to attend these public meetings and cry "no wolf, no way!" Times have indeed changed, but perhaps I shouldn't get too excited. This was just one meeting, and this is just the very very beginning of the process. In fact, Olympic National Park doesn't really have this on its radar right now.
Park spokesperson, Barb Maynes told the paper, "part of our mission is restoration of natural ecosystems . . . but we have other priorities."
The park has been hard at work restoring other critters. As you may have seen in a National Parks Traveler article earlier this week, Olympic has just released the environmental assessment for the fisher recovery.
One species recovery at a time I guess, but for those of us who would like to see the wolf return, the public attitude on display at this recent meeting is a long awaited breath of fresh air. There is hope.