Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Re-Wilding Island Royale National Park

There are only three. One of those is so crippled by inbreeding he may not survive another winter.  There are only three wolves alive on Island Royale in Lake Superior.  Should humans prevent the inevitable and introduce new wolves from mainland Minnesota? That is not a simple question for several reasons, Gary Wockner writes at EcoWatch.  Wolves are not endemic to Island Royale as far as humans know. A pack crossed an ice bridge in the 1940's and established themselves on the island, feeding on island moose. The wolf and moose population cycled since then. Thirty wolves was their peak number.

Wockner argues that because man is warming the planet by his economic activity perhaps beyond redemption, no place on the planet is absolutely natural wilderness. Man is responsible for the decline of wolves on the island, and because ice pack is shrinking rapidly, another pack may not reach the island again. The park is classified as wilderness by the Park Service, and its legal mandate is to protect the park as undisturbed by man.  If the Service re-introduces wolves to the island, the entire ecosystem will be affected down to the types of plants that survive browsing by moose that survive the wolves.

Climate change is an undeniable fact except for those maintaining official ignorance for monetary gain. Temperatures in northern Minnesota are warming up and the ice bridge to the island appears less often each winter. As climate change increases, the bridge will probably cease to exist in nature. So the Park Service should perform what it calls "genetic rescue" and re-introduce wolves to the island. Such intervention is not unprecedented. The California condor was only saved from certain extinction in the wild through intensive captive breeding. Humans, because of their adaptability, technology, and anthropocentricity are in control of the entire planet. We are not ready for this responsibility, although we insist on the benefits of a manipulated reality, usually deludedly referred to as "progress". Every ecosystem on Earth is imperiled by catastrophic climate change. We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction. This one is unique because it is anthropogenic. It is the 'Big One'.