Please join us in congratulating our 2018 – 2019 Wood Splitters Direct Forestry Scholarship Winner.
Michigan Technological University
We appreciate all of those who have submitted essays for our scholarship contest. While the decision was not an easy one to make, we’re excited to offer Claire $500 towards her next semester at Michigan Technological University. See Claire’s contest-winning essay below and check back next year for 2019 submission details:
For generations, “big bad” has been the term often associated with the conversation surrounding the wolf. It was only after the eradication of the wolf from most of the American landscape that their benefits were understood. It has only been within the last few decades that we have started to understand the importance, and the drawbacks, of having these wild creatures in our ecosystem.
For years in North America, wolves were hunted for their pelts, to create a safer living environment for farmed animals and to remove competition against humans for wild game species. This hunting was unsustainable though, and soon the wolf’s range was a fraction of what it once was. As the wolves disappeared from the landscape, the ecosystem began to change in drastic ways. It has only been within the last few decades that the science community has begun to understand the role of wolves on the landscape, and with this newfound knowledge the reintroduction of wolves started in America. With the reintroduction of this species to the landscape, there have been both negative and positive outcomes economically and environmentally.
Wolves in an area can dramatically impact the local economy in a positive manner. This impact can be seen through an increase in tourist dollars, and through local hunting tags, where wolf hunts are legal. As wolves are reintroduced into areas, such as Yellowstone National Park, tourists are drawn to these areas specifically to see the wolves. As more tourists flock to areas with reintroduced wolves, they not only see the wolves in some cases but they also spend money at local hotels and restaurants while they are there, which in turn helps to boost the local economy. Local hunters who wish to protect their livestock also have the chance of winning a wolf tag in a lottery. The fee for the tag goes to protecting the areas other vital ecosystems and other supplies used in a hunt go to enriching the local economy.
The economic impact of wolves in an area is not always positive though. In some cases, wolves that have been reintroduced now clash with farmers who raise free range livestock, such as sheep. As in most predator-prey relationships, predators go for the prey species that are old, weak or very young. This natural relationship becomes a large economic issue when wolves that have been reintroduced to an area turn their attentions on the young of domesticated animals. In some instances, farmers rely heavily on their livestock to supply a large portion of their economic wealth. In these cases, a small number of animals taken by wolves could mean a significant amount of income lost to the farmer. It is not only the one farmer who lost the animals that feels this income loss though, this loss causes ripples throughout the whole economic chain as that farmer was not able to make a purchase on which another person may have been counting on.
The impact that reintroduced wolves have on the environment also has positive and negative outcomes. The positive impacts that wolves bring back to the ecosystem can be seen dramatically in Yellowstone National Park. When the wolves disappeared, the landscape was altered dramatically, as an apex predator had been removed. As wolves are slowly brought back onto the landscape, the ecosystem is once again returning to its normal rhythm; the ungulate populations are coming under control, flora that had been decimated is returning and with them, insects and birds are once again coming back. It is from the wolf reintroduction that the Yellowstone ecosystem is once again returning to a healthy state.
The reintroduction of wolves is not always a positive benefit to the environment. The number of territorial wolf packs has dropped, and when wolves are reintroduced to an area with no competition that areas environment can suffer. The reintroduced pack may fail to have territorial boundaries which then leads to the possible extirpation of smaller game and predator species. This loss of other small predators and game can cause other impacts on the environment, such as a change in the biodiversity of the area.
There was a time when wolves had been extirpated from most of their native territory in North America. Through the reintroduction of packs into their native territorial ranges, there have been both beneficial outcomes and negative consequences to the local economy and environment. There is a large benefit to the reintroduction of the native wolf population, but with every benefit there is always a drawback.