Wildlife Under Fire | Letters | Chicago Reader

Wildlife Under Fire 

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To the editors:

As a frequent visitor to Yellowstone National Park, I was interested in Jerry Sullivan's defense of Park fire policy [Field & Street, September 9]. He quotes Park biologists clearly explaining the regenerating effect of fire on the average forest. Indeed, for 16 years, Park management has been hoping for "significant fire" to demonstrate this regeneration.

Park officials held to that policy even with the extreme drought conditions, and after warnings from the chief forester of the Nat'l Forest Service that "fires could burn out of control." Now, of course, several fires have burned into National Forest and private lands with no end in sight. I don't know when Jerry wrote his article, but events of last week should give him pause. Even the Park leaders were changing their tune. Spokesperson Joan Anzelmo said that they were appalled at the magnitude of the event, and "no scientist could have predicted" it. Why not? Actually, YNP officials "modified" the policy as early as July 28, electing to fight the North Fork fire.

Beside the question of Park responsibility to its neighbors, questions occur about effects on animals within the Park. How will loss of food and habitat affect the precarious population of grizzly bear? And on declining populations of mule deer and bighorn sheep? Will distinctive subspecies of trout survive unshaded streams? Past Park policies have caused the elimination of wolf and cougar; beaver and white-tailed deer have vanished from the Park. The loss of another species would be a grim repudiation of Park policy.

There was a great gray owl on the Grebe Lake trail.

Owen McHugh



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