"To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” – Aldo Leopold
The U.S. National Park Service′s upcoming decision about whether to restore the wolves of Isle Royale is one of the most important decisions our society faces. Seriously. Hear me out.
One of the longest running experiments in wildlife management history is about to end at Isle Royale National Park. The number of wolves has dwindled down to three, with the likelihood of them successfully breeding near zero. In fact, one of the three—a pup—is so physically disabled from genetic inbreeding that it may not live another year, leaving the last two to stalk the 200-square-mile island like lonely, sterile humans in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The U.S. Park Service is considering a decision about what to do—should they restore the wolves by trapping a pack or two on the mainland in Minnesota and shipping them over to the Isle Royale? Or should they let the wolves die out as an experiment in wilderness management?
I don’t blame the Park Service for initially dawdling on this issue. Twenty years ago I wrote my PhD about this exact question at Isle Royale. I called it a “conundrum,” which is defined as a “confusing and difficult question." Here’s why: A small pack of wolves migrated across an ice bridge over to Isle Royale in northern Lake Superior back in the 1940s and started feeding on moose that had swum over to the island and proliferated forty years earlier. Over the years, the number of wolves cycled between a dozen or so and up to 30 at times, as the dance of predator and prey tangoed across the remote wilderness island. Moose numbers also cycled, as did the vegetation moose ate.
The Park Service manages Isle Royale officially as a “wilderness area,” a place that cannot be touched by people so as to retain its natural, non-human ecology and character. So you can see why the Park Service has dawdled on this issue—after all, what is “wilderness” if we reintroduce the top predator and manipulate the entire ecosystem?
A few years before I considered this topic as my PhD, a writer named Bill McKibben wrote a book titled The End of Nature that now plays a leading role in this Isle Royale story. McKibben’s premise was that, due to climate change, humans have now so completely changed the planet that what we think of as “authentic nature” or “wilderness” no longer exists. Unfortunately, Bill was dead right. It’s all a human-created environment now, one that looks increasingly likely to play out in the most negative ways for our species as well as for the non-human world including the wolves on Isle Royale.
Climate change is real, is happening right now and is happening on Isle Royale. Specifically, the temperatures of northern Minnesota, Isle Royale, and surrounding Lake Superior are warming up. The ice bridge the wolves ran across is occurring less often each winter, and as climate change progresses, the ice bridge is less likely to occur or may not occur at all in the future.
Stated differently, Isle Royale is not a wilderness anymore—nor is any place on Earth. We humans are now managing everything, and whether we realize it or not, by creating and refusing to stop climate change, we have managed and created the wolf extermination on Isle Royale. The wolves of Isle Royale are not dying; we are killing them.
Further, ecologists and conservation biologists that study climate change are considering these types of problems all over the planet. As the climate warms, millions of species around the globe are increasingly at risk. Not just polar bears in the Arctic and coral reefs in the Caribbean, but every critter and ecosystem that dances across this earth is now imperiled by the grave certainty of the changing climate we have created.
About the same time—in the late 1940s—that wolves migrated to Isle Royale, another local character in the north woods named Aldo Leopold wrote a book titled The Sand County Almanac. Leopold was a visionary ecologist and his book is now an international classic. He argued that when you are dissembling and tinkering with any mechanism, you always keep all the parts so you can put it back together again, and that the argument is equally true for when humans manipulate nature too.
That’s why I advocate for the immediate restoration of wolves to Isle Royale National Park, an option the Park Service is considering which they call “genetic rescue.” Our society is on a breakneck course to change the climate and imperil our very life support system. Faced with this apocalypse, smart people should be investing in and keeping all the pieces of our former biologically diverse environment—every critter and every ecosystem—as intact as possible to be as resilient as possible in the face of the dramatic uncertainty climate change will bring.
Accordingly, the National Park Service can help play one of the greatest roles in the history of the U.S. by protecting, restoring and genetically rescuing the biological diversity in the parks across America including the wolves of Isle Royale.
Are we zombie exterminators? Or are we intelligent tinkerers?
To tell the Park Service to save the wolves at Isle Royale, contact Superintendent Phyllis Green at Phyllis_Green@nps.gov or call her at 906-487-7140.
Gary Wockner is an environmental advocate and writer based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- 29 Wildfires Blaze Across the West, Fueled by Drought and Wind ... ›
- Large Wildfires Scorch Forests in Drought-Stricken Southwest ... ›
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. mixetto / E+ / Getty Images
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. New research has found that 5.4 million Americans were dropped from their insurance between February and May of this year. In that three-month stretch more Americans lost their coverage than have lost coverage in any entire year, according to The New York Times.
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- 'Unfathomable Cruelty': Trump Admin Asks Supreme Court to ... ›
On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.
- Extreme Heat-Stressed Locations Could Increase by 80% - EcoWatch ›
- African Americans Are Disproportionately Exposed to Extreme Heat ... ›
- Extreme Heat Is Killing Americans While Government Neglect ... ›
Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.
- Plunging Oil Prices Trigger Economic Downturn in Fracking Boom ... ›
- Fracking Boom Bursts in Face of Low Oil Prices - EcoWatch ›
- As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, U.S. Regulators Enable ... ›
A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.
- Under Trump, EPA Workers Seek Bill of Rights to Allow Them to ... ›
- Trump Adds 'Tasteless Insult to Injury' by Pushing Fossil Fuel ... ›
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- How Do You Stay Safe Now That States Are Reopening? - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New ... ›
By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
- DNC Ignores Progressive Climate Activists - EcoWatch ›
- Who's a Climate Champion and Who's a Climate Disaster? - EcoWatch ›