It’s been almost 20 years since wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and parts of Idaho and placed on the endangered species list. At the time, advocates said wolves were a vital link in the natural ecosystem. Worried about the effect of wolves on their livelihoods, ranchers and hunters protested the reintroduction, some even filing lawsuits.
The discussion became heated to the point of threatened violence. Jump ahead to 2013: For ranchers, hunters, wildlife advocates and nature enthusiasts, wolves and their fate have again become the center of a growing controversy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that wolves – except for the Mexican wolves of the Southwest -- be delisted nationwide as an endangered species and that their management be handled at a state level. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have already delisted wolves and implemented hunting seasons. A new documentary film, “Return of the Wolves: The Next Chapter,” explores both sides of the issue and examines the role of the wolf in Yellowstone, the West and the Southwest. Filmmaker John Howe says, “Wolves are symbolic of the cultural divide in the West. Some see them as the spirit of the wilderness. Others view them as the return of a historic adversary. They remain in the crosshairs of controversy.” The film, which premieres Monday, November 25 at 9:00 p.m. on KUED, has been picked up for national distribution by PBS in January. We’ll explore this issue with John Howe and hear clips from the film.