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Wolf Restoration to the Adirondacks:
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Participation in the Decision

Advantages of Public Participation in Decision Making


This is where public involvement can play a very important role. If enough citizens in New York want their government to restore wolves to the Adirondacks, such a measure would have to be given a great deal of consideration, at least by the state. Or if enough U.S. citizens favor wolf restoration to the Adirondacks and inform their elected representatives, then as long as the wolf remains on the federal endangered species list, the federal government will also have to listen.

On the other hand, if enough public pressure is brought against the issue, then that will have considerable influence. Because of the wolf's controversial nature and its tendency to prey on livestock and pets, there will be public opposition. What the net balance of public sentiment will be and how that feeling will be viewed by representatives and agencies remains to be seen. However, it seems likely that without strong positive public pressure, wolves probably will not be restored to the Adirondacks.

This illustrates one of the main advantages of public pressure. The government has many tasks to accomplish with endangered species and far too few personnel and too little funding to deal with all of them as they deserve. In prioritizing those tasks, the government must consider public interest and pressure. Bringing this pressure is the most significant role the public can play in wolf recovery in the Adirondacks. In fact, such public involvement that helped precipitate wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996.

Public involvement also has assisted wolf recovery through the payment of compensation for wolf depredations on livestock in the Rocky Mountains (Fischer, Snape, and Hudson 1994). This program was initiated by the Defenders of Wildlife and parallels a program by the State Department of Agriculture in Minnesota (see Schlickeisen, Chapter Seven, this volume). What is so innovative about Defenders program is that it allows wolf advocates to help subsidize their favorite animal rather than making the general public pay, as government programs would. There is little doubt that the Defenders compensation program greatly facilitated the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho, and it can be argued that without the Defenders program, reintroduction might not have taken place. Similarly, the Defenders compensation program greatly expedited reintroduction of the Mexican wolf into Arizona.

Groups that deserve special mention in promoting wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone are Renee Askins' Wolf Fund, which was established solely wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone, and Bobbie Holaday's Preserve Arizona's Wolves (PAWS), which lobbied primarily for the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Both organizations disbanded once the goal of reintroduction was met. Several other organizations also lobbied strongly for these reintroductions and for wolf recovery in general.


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