Connections: Wolves, Panthers, Presidents

    Mary Ellen Hannibal talked about her new book, “The Spine of the Continent,” in a Star interview in September. In it, she describes the effort by some 30 nonprofit organizations to recreate a 5,000-mile corridor for wildlife from Alaska through the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in Mexico. She called it “the most ambitious wildlife project ever undertaken.”
    Two weeks later, in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, she wrote about biodiversity and the interconnectedness of living things.
    Mary Ellen grew up in East Hampton, so she is “one of ours” even though she lives in San Francisco. I got thinking about her dedication to the health of the planet recently after an e-mail arrived from Defenders of Wildlife on behalf of Florida’s panthers — not the ice-hockey team, but the 100 or so remaining big cats in the last breeding population of panthers in the United States. Donations were sought to further the organization’s advocacy for the expansion of the panthers’ national refuge in Southern Florida and for the enforcement of pertinent local laws.
    I am also plugged in to the National Resources Defense Council’s work to preserve wildlife (on land and sea). Recently, it has joined other environmental groups in a court challenge against the federal government’s intended removal of Wyoming’s small wolf population from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, citing negative consequences.
    Mary Ellen mentioned this in her Times piece, which summarizes the ways in which wolves and other predators serve an ecological purpose: “The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver,” she wrote. And, “Keeping these connections going ensures healthy, functioning ecosystems, which in turn support human life.”
    (A light went on when I read a passage in which she described how, along with smaller animals like raccoons, panthers prey on white-tail deer. Instead of allowing them to die off in Florida, perhaps they could be captured and shipped north. By the way, wolves were unwelcome residents here in colonial times, as they were along the East Coast and in Europe. I am told the early East Hampton Town Trustee records describe the obligation of every man to help dig or maintain a wolf pit, or trap.)    Too often the preservation of the environment or of specific species becomes a plea or litigation against destructive actions, but the wildlife-corridor project described in Mary Ellen’s book is an example of positive action. The creation of something.
    Big Bird aside, we haven’t heard much so far about the wildlife or the environment from the candidates for president in this fall’s election run, and more’s the pity. I hope you join me, and Mary Ellen Hannibal, in pushing these issues to the front of our minds. Time is running out.