Thursday, May 7, 2015

Report: Cougar, Elk, Wolf Return Would Boost Economy

DSCN6114An economic study published by the the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, an organization dedicated to the recovery of cougars to their former range, argues that restoring the Adirondack ecosystem with native wildlife would establish Adirondack Park as an international wildlife recreation destination.

The report estimates that restoring native woodland elk, bison, wolves and cougars to the Adirondack Park would add upwards of $583 million annually in wildlife watching and big game hunting tourism and create 3,540 new jobs. The study reports that restoration would create opportunities for wildlife tracking classes and vacations, darting, howling and photography safaris, and big game hunting.

In “Yellowstone East: The Economic Benefits of Restoring the Adirondack Ecosystem With Native Wildlife,” CRF executives Dr. John Laundre and Christopher Spatz cite as examples U.S. regions currently promoting big wildlife recreation.

The report authors say penned herds of elk and bison attract 130,000 visitors yearly to Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Red wolves restored to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge attract 25,000 families, generate $37 million every year, and have boosted eastern North Carolina tourism by 19%. Yellowstone National Park’s 1.8 million annual wildlife watching tourists produce $675 million in revenue, many drawn to Yellowstone’s elk, bison and its restored wolves.

Adirodnack Tourism MarketsThe study suggests that rewilding the Adirondacks, America’s first wilderness, with its marquee wildlife would draw an additional 470,000 wildlife recreationists a year, in part, by keeping New York wildlife watchers in-state. “Nearly two-thirds of New York State’s $10.6 billion in annual wildlife watching revenue goes out-of-state,” says John Laundre, the former SUNY Oswego ecologist who published a cougar habitat analysis for the Adirondacks in 2013, “With these big, charismatic animals restored to the East’s grandest Park, tourists and hunters from downstate, and the City, and the Northeast could decide to stay closer to home instead of going to Alaska or Yellowstone or on an African big game safari – 84 million of them within a day’s drive.”

The study suggests that rewilding America’s first wilderness with its marquee wildlife would draw an additional 470,000 wildlife recreationists a year, in part, by keeping New York wildlife watchers in-state. “Nearly two-thirds of New York State’s $10.6 billion in annual wildlife watching revenue goes out-of-state,” says John Laundre, the former SUNY Oswego ecologist who published a cougar habitat analysis for the Adirondacks in 2013, “With these big, charismatic animals restored to the East’s grandest Park, tourists and hunters from downstate, and the City, and the Northeast could decide to stay closer to home instead of going to Alaska or Yellowstone or on an African big game safari – 84 million of them within a day’s drive.”

herd of elk in pennsylvaniaThe study reports that successful restorations of all four species have occurred in regions with comparable or higher human densities than the Adirondacks, including elk to Pennsylvania, bison and wolves across Europe, and cougars test-released along the eastern Georgia/Florida border.

“Economic wildlife studies, including a study of the DEC’s Environmental Protection Fund, show that for each $1 invested in open space and wildlife returns $7-$21 in revenue, jobs and taxes,” CRF president and Rosendale, N.Y. resident Christopher Spatz argues. “By restoring its ancient, animal pageantry to the mighty Adirondacks, New York State has an opportunity to lead the nation by merging ecosystem recovery with economic sustainability.”

The American Naturalist reports that elk were found along the Saranac River as late as the 1820s, and bison once ranged east to Massachusetts and north to Ontario,” says Wildlands Network founder, CRF director and Essex, N.Y. resident John Davis. “Imagine elk and bison grazing in the Park’s big river valleys, boosting tourism and big game hunting opportunities. Imagine wolf howling safaris on large conservation easement lands, or searching for big cat sign with Adirondack trackers and naturalists.”

Photo above, wildlife photographers gather at Helldiver Pond in 2014 on the search for its resident Moose (photo by John Warren); below, an illustration of the Adirondacks tourism feeder markets (provided); and below, a herd of elk in Pennsylvania (provided).


Editorial Staff

Stories written under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline are drawn from press releases and other notices.

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29 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Is the type of Elk we have now what used to be native to the Adirondacks?

  2. Paul says:

    Even with these animals restored the idea you might choose that over an African safari is a long shot. Maybe the data prove folks would do that. But being someone who lived in East Africa for a time I find this hard to believe.

    The parks we have there are much different than an Adirondack experience.

    • AG says:

      I don’t think the comparison was with international expeditions – only domestic ones.

      • Paul says:

        Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto.. Sounds pretty international. But I do get your point it would be more from the backyard.

        But the author did say this:

        “tourists and hunters from downstate, and the City, and the Northeast could decide to stay closer to home instead of going to Alaska or Yellowstone or on an African big game safari”

  3. Davis Moquin says:

    No, there is no restoring the exact elk species to the Adirondacks or anywhere else in the Eastern US. It’s been extirpated. But quite a number of states have done very well with elk from the West. It would be a big plus to have them in NYS IMHO.

    • Paul says:

      Didn’t they already try and re-introduce elk in some areas? Let’s make sure the ones we use don’t have chronic wasting disease or we will be getting rid of the deer also. It is also important to consider that we will not be re-introducing these animals into the Adirondacks only. The rest of the state is potential habitat (maybe even better habitat) so there is no reason to think they would be confined to the park in any way. For the attempt with Lynx that was different, I think only the Adirondacks has habitat that is a match for that animal. I guess they also did wander some?

  4. drdirt says:

    The recent newspaper article about the Mayfield man being persecuted for keeping ‘big cats’ kind of goes against the idea that ADK people will go along with this.
    His own neighbors in this southern adirondack town are so afraid of wild animals that they are forcing him to place them in another region. And guess what? They aren’t even that wild, as he has cared for and nurtured them for years!!!

    Any one who thinks our park of DEC family-oriented campsites and smalltown playgrounds could be a viable ‘safari’ region is dreaming out loud. We all just went beserk when a few bison escaped from their home and swam the Hudson a few days ago, A bear in your neighborhood .,.,shoot it dead please. A Moose acting strange? A cougar in the Park?

    AND most importantly, I don’t want the Scenic Tourist Train forced off schedule waiting for Elk and Buffalo to move off the tracks! The Guv might miss his boat ride .,.,.,

  5. George says:

    Great idea on elk as there have been highly successful reintroductions particularly in Kentucky and in Pennsylvania. I don’t think there have been any attempts at bison in the east but I would think they would need more grasslands than the Adirondacks could supply. Cougar and wolves maybe should wait until the first two species are established for the Adirondack deer population might be too small to support them.

    I think the picture of elk labeled taken in Pennsylvania was really shot out west. The terrain and tree species do not look like Pennsylvania.

    • AG says:

      You had different type of bison… Not all bison live in the plains. Before the Europeans got here – bison lived in every northern area of the continent – just like wolves and cougars.

  6. UNHOLY says:

    What kind of review do you expect from Cougar Rewilding Foundation ? They aren’t going to publish cougars are a bad thing. It’s a new country now —not the same as 200 years ago – sure they were native here once —–same with Dinosaurs. But it ain’t gonna work now. The ADK park is far too populated with humans now to have such big game roaming free.

    • AG says:

      No – it’s not too populated. Do you know how many cougars live in California? The problem is simply that certain groups of people are afraid of anything and like to kill everything.

  7. Paul says:

    I understand the cougar and wolf idea (not that I necessarily agree) but the elk part seems strange. That animal that was here doesn’t even exist anymore. We are just talking about introducing what really could be defined as an invasive. When you start doing this I think you are playing with fire. If you can re-introduce exactly what people were responsible for us losing then fine, but just picking something that is close enough, probably not a good idea. We don’t understand everything about this ecosystem.

    • Jesse B says:

      I agree with the sentiment, Paul. While historically bison and elk may have ranged into New York state, their densities were never high and the heavily forested Adirondacks would be fringe habitat for large grazing mammals at best. In fact, many ecological studies postulate the eastern elk and bison subspecies only survived in the eastern U.S. as a result of controlled burning by native populations that held meadows open and forests at bay, and are clearly not maintained as such today.

      It seems the Cougar Rewilding foundation is arguing less for a restoration of a historical Adirondack ecosystem and more of an artificial wildlife park that happens to relatively near a large population of potential visitors.

  8. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Here we go again and now the fanatics have added Elk & Bison to the mix. I highly doubt that Bison were ever in the ADKs and to the best of my knowledge, both Elk and Bison were only in the southwestern portions of this State and then not even in great numbers. Does anybody even remotely recall DEC’s bring back the “Lynx” debacle? Within about three years tops they were either killed and/or they migrated out of the State.

    Cougars kill people and wolves kill livestock, pets (dogs especially) and bringing them in will result in nobody being able to hunt/harvest coyotes for fear a wolf would be harmed. Of course wolves will kill coyotes as well.

    Give it a break people

    • AG says:

      So how do they live with cougars in California? How are wolves re-populating Europe – which is much more densely populated? The only thing that needs to be put to rest is the idea that man can’t live near intact nature.

      Oh and btw – the reason the Lynx project didn’t work was because it wasn’t done right. Lynx have returned naturally to New England..

      • Paul says:

        California does have a large population and they also have huge wide open and pretty road-less places (same for some parts of Florida where there are some cougars) The Adirondacks don’t. It has been said here many times it is hard to get far away from a road in the Adirondacks. It is worth a shot but I am not sure it will work.

  9. Paul says:

    At what point would the “big game hunting” component kick in? How much of the half a billion is that? Even moose are not yet at numbers where we can hunt them. That is at least at 35 years in since we started to see them coming back around the early 80s.

  10. Wally Elton Wally says:

    Good discussion up to the “fanatics” part. Meaning anyone with a different opinion I suppose. I’m open to bringing back any species that can make it in the Adirondacks. But do we actually want all those people?

  11. Davis MOQUIN says:

    Paul, cougars live in California with road densities and traffic levels greater than a lot of places in the Park or the Northeast for that matter (Maine in particular). Human attitudes towards large predators is still the issue here after all these years. Certainly there is some level of danger, but the domestic dog and venomous snake kill or injure people. Without question we love our dogs and a number of states, including NYS, have instituted protections for rattlesnakes and copperheads. Can’t wolves and cougars get a little respect as well?

    • Paul says:

      I said it might work. But it is an expensive proposition. Sure go for it. I think the ecosystem is different but if I am wrong – great.

  12. Jack Straw says:

    I love cougars as much as the next guy or gal but do we really need big game hunting safaris and do I need to be walking in the woods wondering if a cougar is gonna bite my poodle? Bad enuf there’s a bear running around the neighborhood, depriving the birds and red squirrels of their daily bread. But if we’re going retro with cougars and cute little wolfies, how about some Mammoths, or Wooly Mastadons – I’m sure there’s some DNA buried somewhere around here that can resuscitated for the sake of tourism and larger hunting rifles. Which we’re gonna need more of when Isis rolls up Rt. 73.

    • AG says:

      Ummmm Mammoths and Mastadons were not made extinct by humans – so the comparison is a little ridiculous. Unlike your poodle – wolves and cougars help to balance the ecosystem. Your poodle is a pet – not an essential part of the ecosystem like a natural predator.
      Also – how exactly do bears deprive birds and squirrels???? Each animal has their God given ability on how to get food when there is no human intervention.

  13. Glenn L. Pearsall says:

    It all goes to habitat. Would these animals actually thrive in this region and, if so, why have they not already established themselves here? Further, the Adirondacks are a hard place to hunt. The only hunting pressure I see in my area is the first two weeks in the hunting season. After that all the hunters (even many of the local ones) head to the Catskills where hunting is easier.

    • AG says:

      Glenn – how could they possibly establish themselves here? Elk have been restored in Pennsylvania – but they can’t make it here.. They are hunted. Wolves and Cougars are shot anytime they try to expand their range in the west or from Canada… Bison? They were wiped off the map too… They aren’t allowed to expand.

      Moose are the only ones who could do it…

  14. Craig says:

    I would love to see elk restored to the Adirondacks, but I don’t think they’d make it in the central Adirondacks. They would probably be better off in the Tug Hill Plateau region or north of the park. The area where elk live in Pennsylvania has a lot of open lands for the elk to graze and the PA Game Commission plants a lot of clover and stuff like that to lure the elk away from agricultural lands. I don’t think there is anything similar in the Adirondacks, since its a forever wild area.

  15. Bobby says:

    Incredible idea!