COLUMN: Preservation requires co-operation

From someone whose life has revolved around words, I find it disturbing how often many of them are misused...

From someone whose life has revolved around words, and mostly the correct usage of same, I find it disturbing how often many of them are misused.

Recently, I read about an animal, complete with photograph, that had been “electrocuted.” The animal, following its “electrocution” appeared to be reasonably fine; at least as fine as anything can be after receiving a jolt of electricity.

In other words, to be electrocuted means to be killed, not merely shocked, though admittedly getting zapped can be unpleasant in even the best of circumstances. Death, on the other hand, is rather final and one does not actively pose for pictures following it.

Extinction is another of those words that has a significant ring of finality about it. In one of the Vancouver dailies this week was an article about the wolf “problem” in the areas surrounding Yellowstone Park. According to the author, wolves were “hunted to extinction” around 1926. Species extinction means they are gone for good, such as the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon. Extirpation of the wolves in Yellowstone is the word that should have been used, since wolf populations are far from extinct, and in fact, thanks to two re-introductions numbering 27 wolves from Canada 20 years ago, there are now some 1,700 of the four-legged critters cleaning up on Montana/Wyoming livestock, elk and other handy prey.

They have become so successful that Montana ranchers are screaming for their demise, and hunting “opportunities” are in effect in an attempt to keep the wolf population growth in that area in check.

Obviously, extinct they are/were not; merely extirpated from that particular region.

While I can, in a way, understand the concerns of those ranchers – they were virtually predator-free for nearly 75 years – re-introducing wildlife to a traditional territory returns a natural balance to the ecosystem. Yes, it can cause problems but much of Wyoming and Montana are essentially wild places, with just over 1.5 million combined population. Montana, which borders B.C., is also the third-largest state south of the border, so you’d think there’d be sufficient wilderness to accommodate predators as well as people.

Additionally, there is a significant environmental movement afoot to create what is known as the international Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon) initiative. Not only is this an admirable effort to create a wildlife corridor through some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, it is actually gaining considerable traction. There are, of course, certain hurdles to its creation, not the least of which are the proposed Jumbo Glacier year-round ski resort in the East Kootenay and the Site C dam in the Peace country.

While the dam and its reservoir may create a significant barrier to north/south wildlife interaction, it will probably only affect local populations. Nor should Jumbo be an impediment, because animals aren’t using the corridor in Serengeti-like migrations anyway. Otherwise, Kootenay wolves would have repopulated Yellowstone long before reintroductions were necessary.

That said, the Y2Y is an admirable goal and its wilderness preservation objectives are aimed at retaining the natural beauty and environment of a vast territory unavailable, perhaps, anywhere else in the world.

What needs to be remembered, however, is that everyone must work co-operatively in its creation because people and progress can’t and won’t be extirpated in its wake as the Yellowstone wolves once were.