End the duopoly

Climate change and the uncertain future of our parks

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Will the pika be Yellowstone’s first mammalian climate change casualty? PHOTO COURTESY OF JANINE WALLER/NPS By Todd Wilkinson EBS Environmental Columnist

Whatever opinions we hold—one side making a strident claim and another striving to debunk it—time has a way of settling differences in perspective.

I remember after the 1988 Yellowstone forest fires, politicians called the park a moonscape that would never recover. And after wolf reintroduction 25 years ago, some hunters and ranchers asserted that lobos would destroy the elk population and the livestock industry before turning their hungry mouths on children.

Yes, time has a way of sorting out truth from windshield biology and one person who had to deal with the latter was John D. Varley, who as the chief scientist in Yellowstone often had to field questions about post-fire effects and what was likely to result from bringing wolves back.

Today, we know that the predictors of doom were wrong. But there is another issue—human caused climate change—that will continue to play out for decades and no one, at the moment, knows exactly what the effects will be. The only certainty is that if we have lighter snowpacks it won’t be good and that if summer conditions are hotter […]

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