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

The Need for Wolf Control

In almost every area of the world that wolves inhabit, except parks and preserves, they are controlled, and any population restored to New York State would also need constant control. However, many of the strongest public advocates of wolf restoration oppose wolf population control (Berg, Hatfield, and Brave Heart 1998).

This dilemma faces each land or resource management agency administrator who considers wolf restoration. The result is a series of meetings, public hearings, consultations, environmental impact statements, legislation, and other types of red tape that greatly prolong the process. Thus it took more than 20 years to restore wolves to Yellowstone National Park (Fritts et al. 1995).

Much has been learned from previous wolf reintroduction efforts, and if restoring wolves to the Adirondack Park were merely a biological issue, the task could be done in a few years. An integral part of the reintroduction plan would be a plan to control the wolf population and minimize wolf depredations on livestock outside the restoration zone, specifying who will pay the substantial costs (Mech 1998).

Because of the aforementioned problems resulting from public participation in the wolf restoration decision, the question of whether wolves will be restored to the Adirondacks depends primarily on the tenor of public input. When it becomes widely publicized that after wolf restoration, hundreds of wolves will have to be killed each year to limit the population (Mech 1995a, 1998), even some wolf advocates will oppose restoration.

Whether to restore wolves to the Adirondacks ultimately will be decided by government officials. Anyone favoring wolf restoration to the Adirondacks would be well advised to heed the past and understand that a rational, scientific, professional approach probably is the only one that has any chance of winning official approval. If responsible public advocacy for wolf restoration in the Adirondack Park prevails, it is possible that when I again venture to that area, I may look out over a frozen lake and this time see a real wolf.

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