Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wilderness group wants wolves, cougars on NY wildlife plan

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A wilderness preservation group is calling on New York state officials to study the reintroduction of wolves and cougars to the Adirondacks.

The group Protect the Adirondacks says the state's updated Wildlife Action Plan contains no mention of possible reintroduction of the big predators. The federally mandated action plan, updated every 10 years, guides state management of species and habitats and ensures that New York will receive federal funding for research on Adirondack species such as loons, spruce grouse and brook trout.

Public comments are being accepted on New York's plan until Friday. The plan drafted by the Department of Environmental Conservation includes assessments for 597 species, identifying population trends and threats.

A DEC spokesman said Wednesday that the action plan focuses on species that currently have populations in New York state. There hasn't been a resident population of wolves or cougars in New York for 150 years.

The DEC's 2005 Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, predating the action plan, called for additional studies of the social and biological feasibility of restoring cougars and wolves before restoration work could begin.

"New York needs to begin planning for the return of large carnivores. They're a historic part of the landscape and their return would be a great success story about ecological restoration," said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks. "The 2015 Wildlife Action Plan is the best place to start the long journey for the return of these top carnivores."

Another wilderness advocacy group, the Adirondack Council, wants the state to protect wolf and cougar habitat but stops short of pressing for reintroduction of the big carnivores. The group says the Adirondacks have viable habitat for the natural reestablishment of these predators.