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Conservation groups urge Biden to restore wolf and beaver habitat

A beaver in Yellowstone National Park.
Lois Elling
A beaver in Yellowstone National Park.

President Biden signed an executive order last year that plans to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030, and a group of scientists recently released a blueprint of one way the ambitious goal could be met.

The scientists highlight wolf and beaver habitat restoration in Western states as the main way to preserve Biden’s 30 percent of land and water in America. This pledge is part of Biden’s Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful plan. According to the blueprint, the two species live in large swaths of land that could amount to the goal.

Erik Molvar, the executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, said increasing beaver and wolf population and their habitat has trickle down effects on stream restoration and mitigation of drought and wildfires.

“Bringing wolves back is an important restoration of a component to the natural ecosystem that's been missing for many years and restoring the wolves actually benefits many, many other species,” he said.

According to the study, this is because wolves can manage ungulate populations that are potentially disrupting native plants and stream systems. However, other studies have shown this theory to lack evidence.

Some ways the conservation groups suggest restoring the federal land is limiting resource extraction and off-road vehicles, as well as limiting livestock on the land, which they say compete for the habitat. Molvar said they are suggesting “voluntary grazing permit buyouts.”

“Individual ranchers aren't going to be constrained by the threat of having their livestock leases taken away from them, it would really be more the case if they wanted to sell they could,” he said.

Molvar said this way more land could be dedicated to wolves and beavers. However, it is unclear how popular this proposal would be, as agriculture, including managing cattle, is the third largest industry in Wyoming.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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