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Wolf Recovery an Imperative for Ecosystem Restoration

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Remote camera photo from July 21, 2013, documenting three pups in the newly formed Mt Emily pack. Photo by Oregon Fish and Wildlife.
Remote camera photo from July 21, 2013, documenting three pups in the newly formed Mt Emily pack. Photo by Oregon Fish and Wildlife.

The importance of recovery of viable populations of wolves on the landscapes of Northern California has been clear to EPIC since before the first time the famous lone wolf “Journey” crossed over into California two years ago. Since that moment, EPIC has dedicated important time and resources to engaging in stakeholder processes and endangered species advocacy in order to contribute to a broadly shared conservation community objective of seeing wolves return to the wild and thrive in California.

Our organization is part of a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to have the gray wolf listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), and North Coast wildlife advocates will have an unprecedented opportunity to provide public comment in support of CESA protections for the gray wolf when the Fish and Game Commission meets on Wednesday, June 4th at the River Lodge in Fortuna. EPIC has also had an active role in a nationwide coalition challenging the scientifically unfounded and clearly untimely proposal to remove Federal Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf throughout the majority of the predator’s current and potential range in the continental United States.

These advocacy actions for the wolf are imperative. At EPIC we see wolf recovery as an important goal of its own accord, as well as being an indispensable watermark for measuring progress towards objectives of true restoration of ecosystems in Northern California. What has become clear to those of us working for the wolf is that wolf recovery is an absolute necessity in California because bringing back the wolf would be one of the most attainable landscape level wildlife restoration accomplishments for working towards the reestablishment of natural processes, including predator-prey relationships, in our extended bioregion.

When comparing wolf recovery with the recovery of wild salmon runs, we believe that there is strong evidence that getting the wolf back onto the landscape is probably going to be much easier than bringing back the salmon. Thus, if we cannot as a society bring back the wolf it is highly unlikely that we will bring back the salmon. And taking this a step further, if we cannot bring back the wolf, and thus cannot bring back the salmon, it is pretty much impossible to contemplate a time in the future when we will be able to restore populations of grizzly bear to California wildlands.

Bringing back the griz would certainly require an amazing amount of preparation and planning, as well as commitment and willpower, on a cultural and political level. We now understand better than ever before, however, that if we cannot succeed in bringing the wolf back to California, then it is impossible to even contemplate bringing back the griz. Thus, wolf recovery is the moment of reckoning for Californian’s, because as goes the wolf so will go the grizzly.

With the icon of the grizzly an integral part of state symbolism, especially with the grizzly is so prominently displayed on the state flag, this is not an irrelevant matter. What does it mean to have a world renowned symbol of wildlife on our flag when there is a total absence of vision or commitment on the part of California residents and our state government to make the griz more than just a colorful symbol and to restore the great bear to it’s rightful place on the landscape? This is why at EPIC we believe that recovery of the wolf is so important, because it comes at the crossroads of the myth vs. the reality of our wild California, one in which wildlife is glorified, but little is done to rectify the disappearance and absence of that wildlife from our ecosystems.

It is with a wry smile that we say then that we must bring back the wolf, we must bring back the salmon, and we must bring back the griz — and if we cannot commit to bringing back the griz, let’s get it off our flag! Let’s stop playing make believe games about how wild our state really isn’t. Now is the time. Bring back the griz– or get it off the flag. And the first step to keeping the grizzly on our flag and eventually someday back on to our landscapes is to show our commitment to having top predators in the wildlands of our state, and to commit fully to wolf recovery now. There is not a moment to lose.

SAVE THE DATE! California Fish and Game Commission will take public comment regarding the petition to have the Gray Wolf listed as “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act when the Commission meets at the River Lodge in Fortuna on Wednesday, June 4. Plan now to come out on June 4th in Fortuna and “howl” for restoring wolves to California wildlands!


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