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In Wolf Country: The Power and Politics of Reintroduction – Yuskavitch 2015

Yuskavitch, Jim. 2015. In wolf country: the power and politics of reintroduction. Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut. 209 pp. B & W photos. Notes. Index. $18.95 paperback; $17.99 e-book.

This book focuses on events surrounding the recolonization of wolves to the State of Oregon, and to a lesser extent, neighboring Washington. It provides a very detailed account of how this recolonization unfolded. The sources of these founder Oregon and Washington wolves was from northwestern Montana’s population – itself recolonizing from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, – and the reintroduced wolves from central Idaho which took place at the same time as the more famous Yellowstone reintroductions. As such, the book is, by extension, a really good source of detailed and readable information on the return of wolves to the entire northwest region of Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon.

Yuskavitch organizes his discussions by chapters, touching on the history of wolf annihilation within the region in the early decades of the last century, followed by the development of packs within Idaho following releases. And of course, he writes of the founding of Oregon and Washington’s first breeding packs.

Much of his book deals with the politics of recovery within the region. He provides the reader with the unique perspective of the views of people living within rural and ranching communities, their fears and concerns – real or imagined – as wolves make their appearances in neighboring mountain ranges. He focuses on the development of local and state grass-roots organizations that both resist and support the return of wolves.

Several chapters detail activities of the powerful cattle industry, perhaps the most formidable political force influencing land use activities on federal lands (Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service) within the region, and – not surprisingly – opposed to the return of wolves in the region. He traces the evolution of hostility towards wolves by hunters, hunter guiding services, communities that benefit economically from seasonal elk hunting activities, and such hunter organizations as the nationally influential Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, whose stance since 2010 has become openly anti-predator, spawning further animosity through its writings to its over 200,000 members nation-wide.

Also treated in detail is the development of state wolf management plans, and stories of political maneuvering, by governors, the various state legislatures, the U. S. Congress, as well as more subtle maneuvers of various state and federal agencies that have, at times, bowed to pressure and conveniently overlooked policies allowing punitive activities towards wolves to occur on lands they manage within the region.

While Yuskovitch’s book focuses primarily on issues relating to wolf recolonization the State of Oregon and Washington, it is perhaps one of the most in-depth and best treatments of regional wolf-related politics available. It is well documented with end notes. By extension, this book portrays the political intrigue behind wolf management throughout the United States where wolves presently occur.

Most importantly, the information (and there is plenty to absorb) Yuskovitch writes in a very readable format. He does a wonderful job of presenting the good, the bad and the ugly in implementing the federal Endangered Species Act.

This is a great read for adults interested in understanding the varied layers of the political realm involved in managing a reintroduced population of wolves. It is highly recommended.

Richard P. Thiel
8 December, 2017