A 75% DECLINE IN 20 YEARS
Wolves are a symbol of wilderness and ecological integrity. They are important in their own right and as a key part of a functioning predator- prey system. In Southeast Alaska, wolves bring significant economic benefits to communities as part of the package that lures more than one million visitors to the Tongass National Forest every year and that contributes more than $1 billion to the Southeast Alaska economy.
From Audubon Alaska:
Old-Growth Logging: The True Culprit behind Drastic Wolf Declines in the Tongass
In response to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game report in May that revealed a drastic decline in the wolf population on Prince of Wales and surrounding islands, Audubon Alaska’s science and policy team developed a report, Prince of Wales Wolves, examining the underlying reason for the decline: large-scale, old-growth, clearcut logging.
“The alarming population decline is most immediately caused by the direct take of wolves from significant poaching and the unsustainable legal take authorized by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, but the underlying cause is extensive logging and roads that initiate many harmful effects, including overharvest of wolves,” said Melanie Smith, Audubon Alaska’s Director of Conservation Science.
The Audubon Alaska report points out three ways old-growth logging has and will continue to drastically impact the wolf population on Prince of Wales:
- 4,200 miles of logging roads on Prince of Wales and surrounding islands allow poachers easy access into wolf habitat.
- Clearcutting old-growth trees removes crucial winter habitat for wolves’ main prey, Sitka black-tailed deer, ultimately resulting in a lower deer population.
- The reduced deer numbers, in turn, make some people perceive wolves as competition for hunting, “leading to increased poaching and public pressure to authorize unsustainable legal limits on wolf take to drive down the wolf population.”
Large-scale, clearcut logging is one of the root causes of the wolf population crash on Prince of Wales. Logging roads built to support timber harvest provide relatively easy access to the wolf population for poachers and legal hunters and trappers. Over a longer time frame, the impacts on foraging habitat for deer will result in further reduction of the deer population which in turn impacts the wolf population. Without immediate policy changes on the part of the state and federal governments, the Prince of Wales Complex population appears to be on its way to extinction.
At this point, the Forest Service has disregarded the evidence of the probable impacts of its timber program on wolves and other wildlife populations on Prince of Wales (such as Queen Charlotte goshawks). Its focus on large-scale logging of old-growth timber in the Tongass puts forest management there 20 to 40 years behind the rest of the nation. The time has come for the Forest Service to manage the Tongass for a host of public values that support the Southeast Alaska tourism and fishing economy of today. To do that, the Forest Service needs to aggressively close timber roads in the Prince of Wales Complex, halt logging and road-building for the Big Thorne timber sale, and end large-scale old-growth timber sales in the Prince of Wales Island region and, more generally, across the Tongass.
The USFWS should list the Prince of Wales Complex wolf population under the ESA. The GMU2 population historically made up one third of the total Alexander Archipelago wolf population in Southeast Alaska, and research has shown that this population is genetically isolated from mainland Alexander Archipelago wolves. A declaration of threatened or endangered status for the population is a logical step toward recovery of this ecologically important and genetically distinct predator that symbolizes the wilderness of the Tongass.
Please send off these tweets on behalf of the Alexander Archipelago Wolves:
.@usfs Large-scale #logging of old-growth timber in the #Tongass puts forest management there 20 to 40 years behind the rest of the nation Tweet4ArchipelagoWolves
.@interior Protect #ArchipelagoWolves an ecologically important & genetically distinct predator symbolic of the wilderness of the Tongass Tweet4ArchipelagoWolves
PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH AND WATCH FOR OUR NEXT TWEETSTORM IN NOVEMBER 2015