Oregon Condition College scientists are proposing management changes on western federal lands that they say will lead to more wolves and beavers and restore ecological processes.
“Rewilding the American West”, co-lead author William Ripple and 19 other authors suggest using portions of federal lands in 11 states to establish a network based on the potential habitat of the gray wolf – an apex predator capable of triggering powerful and widespread ecological effects.
In these states, the authors identified areas, each at least 5 square kilometers of contiguous federally managed land containing prime wolf habitat. The proposed Western Rewilding Community states, which would cover nearly 500 000 square kilometers, are Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
“It’s an ambitious idea, but the American West is going through an unprecedented period of converging crises, including prolonged drought and water scarcity, extreme heat waves, massive fires and loss of biodiversity,” said Ripple, a distinguished professor of ecology at the OSU College of Forestry. near extinction in the West, but were reintroduced to parts of the northern Rockies and Southwest beginning in 1990 years through measures made possible by law on endangered species.
“Yet the current range of the gray wolf d years these 11 States represents only approximately 14% of its historical range,” said co-lead author Christopher Wolf, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Forestry. “They probably once numbered in the tens of thousands, but today there are only maybe 3 500 wolves in the whole West.”
Beaver populations, once robust across the West, have declined by approximately 90% after settler colonialism and are now non-existent in many waterways, meaning ecosystem services are no longer provided, according to the authors.
By cutting down trees and shrubs and building dams, beavers enrich fish habitat, increase water and sediment retention, maintain water flows during drought, improve water quality, increase carbon
sequestration, and generally improve habitat for riparian plant and animal species.
“Beaver restoration is a cost-effective way to repair degraded riparian areas,” said é co-author Robert Beschta, professor emeritus at the OSU Faculty of Forestry. “Riparian areas occupy less than 2% of land in the West, but provide habitat for up to 70% of wildlife species.”
Similarly, wolf restoration provides significant ecological benefits by helping to naturally control native ungulates such as elk, according to the authors. They say wolves facilitate the regrowth of plant species such as aspen, which supports various plant and animal communities and is in decline in the West.
The document includes a catalog of 92 threatened and endangered plant and animal species that have at least 10% of their ranges in the Western Rewilding Community Project for each species, threats from human activity have been analyzed.
The authors determined that the most common threat was livestock grazing, which they believe can lead to the degradation of waterways and wetlands, affect fire regimes and make it more difficult for woody species, especially willow, to regenerate.
Nationally, approximately 2% of the meat results from federal grazing permits, the newspaper notes.
“We suggest removal of grazing on federal allotments of approximately 92 000 square kilometers within the rewilding network, which represents 29% of the full 985 square kilometers of federal lands in the 11 western states that are grazed annually,” Beschta said. “That means we need an economically and socially just federal compensation program for those who give up their grazing permits. Regeneration will be most effective when the participation concerns of all stakeholders are taken into account, including Indigenous peoples and their governments.
In addition to Beschta, Wolf and Ripple, the Oregon State authors include J. Boone Kauffman, Beverly Legislation and Michael Paul Nelson. Daniel Ashe, former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Company and now president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is also a co-author.
The article also included authors from University of Washington, University of Colorado, Ohio State University, Virginia Tech, Michigan Technological University, University of Victoria, Turner Endangered Species Fund, Nationwide Parks and Conservation Association, Resolve, Florida Institute of Conservation Sciences, Public Lands, Media and Wilderness Heritage.