by Jess Edberg, information services director, International Wolf Center
The International Wolf Center has released the first of several cutting-edge
sessions recorded at the October gathering of more than 450 wolf enthusiasts
and experts at the International Wolf Symposium held at the DECC in Duluth,
The first session to be featured is "A Debate About Wolf Recovery,"
presenting wolf experts Ed Bangs, Mike Phillips and Larry Voyles. In these
12 short video segments, each expert presents his unique and sometimes
controversial perspective while answering questions prepared by symposium
staff as well as those offered during the debate by the audience.
The three panelists represent a long and varied history of wolf management
and recovery, experience and skill. Their participation in the panel was well
received, and the audience embraced their pragmatic, strategic and sometimes
Ed Bangs was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's gray wolf recovery
coordinator for the northwestern United States from 1988 until his retirement
in June 2011. From 1975 until 1988 Bangs worked on a wide variety of wildlife
programs, including wolf, lynx, brown and black bear, wolverine, marten,
coyote, moose, bald eagle and trumpeter swan management and research. During
this period he was also involved in land-use planning and management and the
reintroduction of caribou in Alaska's Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Bangs
was involved with the recovery and management of wolves in Montana, Idaho and
Wyoming beginning in 1988 and led the interagency program to reintroduce
wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s.
Mike Phillips has a long history of working with threatened and endangered
species in the realms of research, management and policy. Phillips led the
effort to restore red wolves to the southeastern United States and gray
wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He has served on every Mexican
wolf recovery team convened since 1995. He has directed the Turner Endangered
Species Fund since its inception in June 1997. Phillips has been a Montana
state legislator since 2006 and is currently a state senator.
Larry Voyles is the director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and
serves as the chair of the executive committee of the Association of Fish
and Wildlife Agencies. Voyles has worked for the Arizona Game and Fish
Department for 38 years, starting as a district wildlife manager. He rose
through the ranks, serving as the department's training coordinator, regional
supervisor and ultimately as its executive director, a position he has held
The first video asks the panel the question: "What do you believe wolf
recovery to be, and what is it not?"
With humor and candor, each panelist shared his perspective on what
recovery is in relation to to gray wolf populations in the contiguous United
Having only two minutes each to express that opinion and/or to rebut the
previous panelist's statement, the debaters quickly set the stage for both
philosophical interpretations of recovery and legal interpretations of the
term from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
A common theme of the discussion, first introduced by Voyles, was the
challenge of operating within the legal framework of the ESA while doing the
pragmatic and necessary things needed to recover a species like the wolf.
Each video segment of this panel discussion provides valuable information
on wolf recovery in the United States. Viewers will also find the sessions
provide food for thought on how different interpretations of wolf recovery
influence decision making and discourse.
"I was struck by the thoughtful and congenial interchange between these
luminaries in the world of wolf recovery," said Nancy jo Tubbs, chair of the
International Wolf Center board of directors. "It's this smart, incisive
dialogue that the Center likes to promote and share, especially for those
who clash on today's wolf issues."
When we understand the interpretations and beliefs of others, we are more
informed on the human concerns about wolf recovery, as well as at the
biological level. After all, humans make the choices and policies that impact
Funding for the International Wolf Symposium 2013: Wolves and Humans
at the Crossroads was provided by: Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation,
Harold W. Sweatt Foundation, Turner Endangered Species Fund, and anonymous
A Debate About Wolf Recovery
Q1. What do you believe wolf recovery to be and what is it not?
Q2. In relation to wolves what has the Endangered Species Act or
the administration of the act done well?
Q3. In relation to wolves what has the Endangered Species Act not
Q.4 What is left to be done to further wolf recovery in the U.S.
and what would need to happen to make that possible?
Q.5 What are two to three key points you think the different
factions of the public need to consider to better understand the dialogue
about wolf recovery?
Q.6 What are the most and least useful policies states and tribes
have instituted since wolves became their management responsibility?
Q.7 What does science bring to the table in this dialogue?
Q.8 What is your point of view of the proposal to delist wolves
across the U.S. with the exceptions for red and Mexican wolves?
Q.9 The services recovery goal for the Rockies is only 30 to 450
wolves, the states are moving towards reducing the population and they are
allowed to kill 100-150 wolves in three states. How can such a low threshold
be termed recovered? What about ecological function?
Q.10 It appears to many of us that wolf management by the state
and the anticipated delisting are based more on politics than on science.
What are your thoughts on that?
Q.11 What role has the media played in wolf recovery? And, as
advocates what can we do to change negative perceptions of the wolf by the
Q.12 Why hasn't the Fish and Wildlife Service finished a science-based
recovery plan for Mexican wolves? What's the hold up and next steps?