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

The Eastern Timber Wolf

Nowak's (1995) revision redesignated the wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as the Great Plains wolf (C. l. nubilis) rather than the eastern timber wolf (C. l. lycaon). This meant that the eastern timber wolf recovery plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1978, 1992) had set criteria for recovery of the Great Plains wolf and that there was no plan for the recovery of the eastern timber wolf. This was not a problem from a legal standpoint because the wolf was no longer listed by subspecies. Nevertheless, it allowed the public to claim the need to restore the eastern timber wolf, which still survived in a reservoir in southeastern Ontario and southern Quebec.

Whether the federal government is obligated to attempt to recover the eastern timber wolf is not clear. Just how far the government must go in recovering an endangered species has not been tested. Each wolf recovery team has made its own recommendations as to when the population in its purview can be considered recovered. However, the question of how many wolf populations must be recovered to accomplish the goal of wolf recovery under the Endangered Species Act has not yet been resolved.

Nevertheless, because the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team considered whether wolf recovery was necessary in the Adirondack Mountains and decided that recovery in Wisconsin and Michigan would suffice, the federal government seems justified in agreeing that wolf recovery in the Adirondack Mountains is not integral to wolf recovery nationwide.

This decision does not mean that the federal government would oppose wolf recovery in the Adirondacks. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is developing a recovery plan for the wolf in northeastern United States. This plan would provide guidelines for any state that wanted to promote wolf recovery in the area (R. Refsnider, personal communication, 1998). Whether wolf recovery in the Adirondacks will become a high priority for the Fish and Wildlife Service or whether it would even be funded remains to be seen. Furthermore, New York State could elect to restore the wolf on its own, just as any other state could do.

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