The Return of Wolves: An Iconic Predator’s Struggle To Survive in the American West

Timber Pr. Apr. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781643260730. $28. NAT HIST
Francovich (outdoors reporter for the Washington Spokesman-Review) views the tensions over land management and the wolf reintroduction policy in Washington State as a cultural conflict of values, not merely a to-be-solved ecological equation of predators, prey, and commercial interests. It is, at heart, a sociopolitical question, as ranchers see their way of life threatened by wolves and the state and federal government forces that protect them. The author attempts to accurately convey the motives and perspectives of people from across the wolf restoration debate. By profiling ranchers whose presence de-escalates cattle predations, and wildlife managers creating fact-based policy to create conditions for recovery without overpopulation, Francovich explores a middle-ground option where the land-use needs of wolves and humans are held in precarious balance. However, this depiction of the muddy middle reinforces the paucity of neutral pragmatic solutions and the idea that the vast majority of people involved are either liberal urban elites with book smarts, or conservative rural residents who know the land.
VERDICT A solidly reported work that captures the nuance of wildlife conservation in the midst of political division.
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