By Bob Beck
Laramie, WY – Conservation groups are trying to use some new numbers to their advantage. University of Montana Researcher John Duffield's latest economic report says that wolves in Yellowstone National Park bring in tourists, and that benefits area communities to the tune of $35 million a year.
Duffield says the wolves have some negative impacts as well. He says the predators kill elk, costing the outfitting industry around $900 thousand a year. But Wolf Advocate Francie Saint Onge says the reduced number of elk can also be a positive. "With the re-introduction of the wolf, the elk are not spending as much time in the riparian areas," Saint Onge said, "so the riparian areas are recovering and the fish populations are recovering."
Saint Onge leads wolf tours through Yellowstone, and says they are always filled with tourists excited about seeing wolves. She says 50 percent of visitors to Yellowstone call wolf viewing a priority. With the economy in trouble, she says, area residents should embrace wolves as a way to bring significant income to their communities.