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Welcome to the Carnivore Conservation Page 

From:  Dave Parsons, TRI’s Carnivore Conservation Biologist 

What’s the big deal about carnivores? 

A large body of literature supports the conclusion that large carnivores are critical components of healthy and biologically diverse ecosystems.  Large carnivores tend to promote plant and animal diversity and ecosystem complexity. 

Their removal can unleash a cascade of effects and changes throughout all ecosystem trophic levels reducing biological diversity, simplifying ecosystem structure and function, and interfering with ecological processes.  Their return to impoverished ecosystems can reverse the cascade and restore diversity and complexity to ecosystems. 

We are witnessing such ecological rebirth in Yellowstone National Park following the return of the wolf to that ecosystem.  Riparian willows and cottonwoods are returning because elk spend more time moving and hiding to avoid becoming wolf scat.  With their table reset, beavers are returning to the streams. 

These “ecological engineers” provide homes for myriad critters from aquatic insects to fish to songbirds.  The extent of changes is certainly far more complex than we can observe or document. 

The critical role of carnivores kicks in when viable populations are allowed to persist at ecologically effective population densities over large areas—really large areas. 

“Areas apparently needed to maintain viable populations [of large carnivores] over centuries are so large as to strain credibility; they certainly strain political acceptance.”  Noss et al. (1996:950) 

We’re talking about thousands to tens of thousands of square miles of suitable core habitat areas (safe havens) connected by hospitable linkages (safe passages).  The scale of carnivore conservation drives the ecoregional and continental conservation vision and mission of The Rewilding Institute.  This is the scale of conservation required for preserving ecological and evolutionary processes, without which Nature would be little more than “dead scenery.” 

Continental Conservation Basics

TRI North American Wolf Vision TRI North American Mountain Lion Vision 

What is TRI doing to conserve carnivores?  TRI’s carnivore conservation work is supported by a generous grant from the EMA Foundation.  TRI staff and fellows spread the word about the importance of carnivore conservation through lectures, articles, op-eds, letters to editors, radio appearances and other venues.  We take positions on agency proposals in support of carnivore conservation. 

For example, when the U.S. Forest Service proposed a policy change that would allow more predator killing in wilderness areas and the use of motorized equipment, like helicopters, to do it, we took a strong stance in opposition.  We sent official comments, wrote opinion pieces, and signed on to the comments of other reputable conservation organizations. 

Through our Fellows program, we can fortify our positions with the signatures of nationally and internationally recognized experts in conservation biology and related fields of expertise. 

Mexican Wolf Recovery in the Southwest. 

The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) is the most critically endangered subspecies of gray wolf in North America. 


About 50 years following its extirpation from the Southwest, Mexican wolves were reintroduced to the 7,000 square-mile Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona in 1998.  After two years of documented declines, the wild population stood at perhaps as few as 35 wolves at the beginning of 2006. 

The most significant factor inhibiting the success of Mexican wolf restoration in the BRWRA is the conflict between livestock and wolves on the 95% of the BRWRA that is public lands within the Gila and Apache National Forests. 

To date, the agencies have resolved all conflicts by removing or killing wolves—a policy that we oppose and are trying to change

TRI has teamed up with Forest Guardians to find legally, sociologically, and politically feasible and achievable solutions to the seemingly intractable clash of values that result from agency policies that attempt to graze livestock and restore wolves on the same public landscape, while continuing to give priority to livestock grazing.  Buying and retiring public grazing allotments is a key strategy under review and consideration. 

This project is a high priority for TRI’s carnivore conservation program, and more details will be posted as they emerge. 

Index to TRI Carnivore Conservation Documents 

  1. Gray Wolf Conservation (PDF Documents)
    1. Comments delivered at Mexican Wolf  Adaptive Management Working Group Meeting – 1/27/06
    2. Comments on Mexican wolf management – 2/1/06
    3. Comments on proposed Mexican wolf release sites – 2/1/06
    4. Comments on draft 5-Year Review of Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project – 3/15/06
    5. Comments on proposed Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment – 4/10/06
    6. Comments on recommendations in final 5-Year Review of Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project – 4/17/06
    7. Science case against moratorium on releases of Mexican wolves – 8/18/05
    8. Comments on proposed moratorium on releases of Mexican wolves – 5/25/06
    9. Article in International Wolf Magazine on wolf recovery in the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Southwest – Spring/06
    10. Policy paper published in the journal Conservation Biology describing bureaucratic imperilment of the Mexican wolf – August/06
    11. Comments (in collaboration with Forest Guardians) on Pueblo Creek grazing allotment in the Gila National Forest suggesting a “wolf alternative” – 9/12/06 (wolf section contributed by TRI)
    12. Comments (in collaboration with Forest Guardians) on Hermosa grazing allotment in the Gila National Forest suggesting a “wolf alternative” – 9/22/06 (wolf section contributed by TRI)
    13. Appeal 1 of Gila National Forest proposal to exclude grazing allotment renewals from NEPA review – 10/9,13/06 
    14. Appeal 2 of Gila National Forest proposal to exclude grazing allotment renewals from NEPA review – 10/9,13/06 
  1. Jaguar Conservation

      Endorsement of Forest Guardian’s comments on grazing allotments in the Coronado National Forest – 9/27,28,29 - 2006 

  1. Grizzly Conservation
    1. Comments on proposed delisting of the Grizzly in the Yellowstone ecoregion – 2/8/06  Comments 1, Comments 2, Comments 3
  1. Predator Conservation – General
    1. Letter supporting river otter restoration in New Mexico – 7/23/06
    2. Comments on Forest Service proposal to increase predator control in wilderness areas – 8/2/06
    3. Op-Ed in Albuquerque Journal on Forest Service proposal to increase predator killing in wilderness – 8/20/06
  1. Endangered Species Act
    1. Letter to editor of Albuquerque Journal – 4/8/06
    2. Statement by Dave Parsons at press conference in Albuquerque, NM, on Endangered Species Day – 5/11/06

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