As an integral part of protecting the red wolf population of Eastern North Carolina, our team of wolf advocates that proposes for the reinstatement of the USFWS Red Wolf Reintroduction Program. In addition to the reintroducing of this program, we suggest three additional policies. First, we propose the building of a Red Wolf Sanctuary to foster education, community involvement, eco-tourism and a location for captive breeding. Second, we intend to create a red wolf/coyote capture subsidy plan using the sanctuary’s revenue to encourage local landowners to safely trap red wolves and coyotes on their properties and allow for scientists to come and release them. Lastly, we aim to form a multi-stakeholder committee who will meet monthly to work proactively with the red wolf reintroduction program. With these three additions, we expect greater success for USFWS continue the red wolf reintroduction program, providing the wolves an opportunity to thrive again in the wild.
The Red Wolf Sanctuary
The primary addition that we want to add to the reintroduction program is the building of the Red Wolf Sanctuary. The goal of this sanctuary is to serve as an innovative location combining educational opportunities, community involvement, eco-tourism and a breeding location, all for the benefit of the red wolves and surrounding community. This proposed Red Wolf Sanctuary will be located off Highway 64 on the way to the Outer Banks near Columbia, North Carolina. We will use GIS mapping tools to determine the best position for the center to attract visitors from the Outer Banks while also building close enough to the rural community. GIS techniques will also be used to place the center on land that will not affect the habitat of the current red wolf population.
We recognize that in order to sustain the red wolf reintroduction program, we have to involve the local communities and create emotional connections between them and the wolves. As a facility for education, we envision the sanctuary to host workshops, camps and lectures that highlight the various ways in which saving the wolves benefits not only community members, but the environment too. Educational programs will range from free “Living with the Red Wolf” lectures to paid events that focus on topics in greater depth. Through gaining knowledge of the red wolves, we predict local landowners to want to greater protect the wolves.
Catalyzed by the educational events, we foresee this sanctuary promoting community involvement and participation of the local landowners. The center will allow for farmers markets, job openings and provide a meeting space for larger functions. There will also be nature trails for local citizens and visitors enjoyment of walking, running and riding bikes. As a community center, the Sanctuary would also foster collaboration and conversations between the various stakeholders and encourage greater local involvement with the reinstallation of the red wolf program.
Another important aspect of this center is the eco-tourism capabilities and revenue income for the Columbia, NC area. As noted in a URSA International report titled “Red Wolves: Creating Economic Opportunity Through Ecotourism in Rural North Carolina,” if just 10% of the tourists who vacation in the Outer Banks were to visit this sanctuary and pay a small admission fee, this center could bring in over one million dollars revenue in its first year running. This money would go directly to the overall maintenance of the center, but more importantly, this revenue would serve as the payments for our proposed Red Wolf/Coyote Capture Subsidy Plan. The sanctuary would host a living real red wolf as a draw for tourists to stop along the highway. There will also be a café and small gift shop for the enjoyment purposes of the tourists. We also plan to include local businesses, hotels and restaurants in our building plans so that they may also benefit from the increased tourist traffic.
Lastly, this sanctuary has the ultimate goal of becoming a captive breeding location and rehabilitation center for the red wolf species survival plan. Although this is a hefty goal, it still pertains to our themes of forming an internal community that support the wolves. Many of the captive breeding locations are in places far away from Eastern North Carolina and since this sanctuary will be located in the heart of the reintroduction area, we believe it is the perfect location to breed wolves as well.
Red Wolf/Coyote Capture Subsidy Plan
Our policy would include starting a live capture program in the counties where the red wolf reintroduction program is located. This program would operate by having landowners in areas where red wolves and coyotes are likely to be found submit requests to have live capture traps on their land. As an incentive for having these live capture traps on their land, private landowners will receive an economic benefit. Once the traps are in place, an agency run out of the new Red Wolf Sanctuary would conduct daily checks on tripped traps. The animal once trapped would be identified and tagged and measured if a red wolf and sterilized if it is a coyote to help reduce crossbreeding between the two species. This would help researchers track the red wolf population by monitoring their growth and movement patterns while dealing with the problem of coyotes at the same time. We propose this Red Wolf/Coyote Capture Subsidy Plan be funded through the revenue made by the Red Wolf Sanctuary.
In 2015, the USFWS created a 13 member advisory committee, including landowners, NGOs, scientists and governmental bodies. The sole intent of this committee was to decide the fate of the RWRP by the summer of 2016. As of March 2016, the committee has only met once, with two supplemental conference calls, and this does not appear adequate nor entirely collaborative. Out of the 13 members, only 2 are landowners. Despite the RWRP’s 29 year existence, this has been the only multi-stakeholder advisory board. The USFWS has hosted open house stakeholder meetings, but these meetings were part of a public review process, which may or may not have held much weight in the eventual decision-making. Thus, a committee needs to be permanently established if the program is to continue, comprised of landowners, scientists and governmental officials. Meetings need to be regular and timely. The faster relevant data and science is translated to all stakeholders, the better informed a stakeholder can be.
Currently, the program is characterized by a polarizing mentality, with locals in united opposition to the scientists and NGOs that advocate for the program’s continuation. This has partly been due to USFWS’ lack of reporting, lack of funds and lackluster efforts to actively engage locals and their demands. In order to foster collaboration among all stakeholders, a local who is in support of the project must be identified and hold at least one position on the committee. Local support needs to arise internally, not from an external agency or scientist who may further alienate local people, but from the community itself. The committee will have eight seats; three landowners, at least one in support of the program, two wolf biologists, one state official and one USFWS representative who is not a scientist. Ultimately, the program’s success depends on local engagement and support, and thus, their role must be recognized by maintaining a large section on the committee.
Policy Recommendation Summary
As an overall take away message for our proposed policy recommendations, we wish to create a Red Wolf Sanctuary that is committed to building an internal community, educating these members and fostering collaboration between various stakeholders. We also yearn to establish a lifestyle of living with the wolves and use their presence to benefit the surrounding community. By combining landowners, tourists, activists and scientists, our Red Wolf Sanctuary will be a prized organization that reaps benefits for the citizens, the economy, the environment and ultimately, the majestic red wolf.
Attached is a copy of the entire policy proposal