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Chip Edwards writes The Big Bad Wolf Makes Good:

[W]hen we exterminated wolves from Yellowstone in the early 1900s, killing every last one, we de-watered the land.  That’s right -- no wolves eventually meant fewer streams, creeks, marshes, and springs across western landscapes like Yellowstone where wolves had once thrived.

The chain of effects went roughly like this: no wolves meant that many more elk crowded onto inviting river and stream banks where the grass is green and the livin’ easy.  A growing population of fat elk, in no danger of being turned into prey, gnawed down willow and aspen seedlings before they could mature. Willows are both food and building material for beavers.  As the willows declined, so did beaver populations.  When beavers build dams and ponds, they create wetland habitats for countless bugs, amphibians, fish, birds, and plants, as well as slowing the flow of water and distributing it over broad areas.  The consequences of their decline rippled across the land.

Meanwhile, as the land dried up, Yellowstone’s overgrazed riverbanks eroded.  Life-giving river water receded, leaving those banks barren.  Spawning beds for fish were silted over.  Amphibians lost precious shade where they could have sheltered and hidden.  Yellowstone’s web of life was fraying and becoming threadbare.

The unexpected relationship between absent wolves and absent water is just one example of how big, scary predators like grizzlies and mountain lions, often called “charismatic carnivores,” regulate their ecosystems from the top down.  The results are especially relevant in an era of historic droughts and global warming, both of which are stressing already arid Western lands.  Wolf reintroduction wasn’t a scheme designed to undermine vacationing elk hunters or harass ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands.  It wasn’t done to please some cabal of elitist, urban environmentalists eager to show rural rednecks who’s the boss, though out here in the West that interpretation’s held sway at many public meetings called to discuss wolf reintroduction.

Let’s be clear then: the decision to put wolves back in Yellowstone was a bold experiment backed by the best conservation science available to restore a cherished American ecosystem that was coming apart at the seams.

A discussion on this can also be found in this diary.

• • • • •

At Daily Kos on this date in 2008:

How to Lose Two Voting Blocs with One Statement

Via USA Today, we hear from Didi Lima, GOP communications (!) director in Clark County, Nevada:

"We don't want (Hispanics) to become the new African-American community," Lima told The Associated Press. "And that's what the Democratic Party is going to do to them, create more programs and give them handouts, food stamps and checks for this and checks for that. We don't want that."

"I'm very much afraid that the Democratic Party is going to do the same thing that they did with the African-American culture and make them all dependent on the government and we don't want that," she said.

Lima "was removed from her post" after the remarks, according to the article, and lost her second position as well.

• • • • •

Looking for a good diary to read tonight? Try this one.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 09:01 PM PDT.

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