“What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.”
The Mollie’s Pack has been just one of three Yellowstone area wolf packs named after humans, the other two being the Leopold and Chief Joseph packs.
After being exterminated from most of the Northern Rockies by the early 20th century, gray wolves gradually gained allies in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere to support their reintroduction beginning in the mid 1990s. Today over 1,600 wolves roam the region, a stunning success story illustrating how changing attitudes and values over time can spur us to take further action to protect and preserve species with whom we share this planet.
Mollie Beattie was a fierce advocate and ally for restoring gray wolves, and expanding protections for remaining intact landscapes and ecosystems nationwide. Serving as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton administration, she was on the ground in Yellowstone when Canadian captured gray wolves were placed in acclimation pens in the northern part of the park. She was no pushover and could hold her own with anyone. In 1996, she passed away from brain cancer at age 49.
In her three years at U.S.F.W.S. Beattie oversaw the addition of 15 national wildlife refuges, and over 100 habitat conservation plan agreements made with private landowners. She played a significant role in successfully restoring wolves to central Idaho and Greater Yellowstone. If she were alive today, she’d be overjoyed to have witnessed their recovery and expansion into neighboring Western states.
Beattie inspired many people to take a longer, more nuanced view toward climate change and other impacts challenging our ability to save and protect wildlife and habitat for future generations. One year before her death, she said :
“When Americans are asked what the most pressing environmental issues are, they cite pollution issues such as toxic wastes and clean water. Problems like loss of biodiversity, rapid depletion of natural resources and the international problems of population explosion are way down the list. And yet these are the issues that are of greatest importance to the long-term health of our world.”
Beattie’s life trajectory illuminates the challenges and opportunities we have today to work together, keep taking action, and never give up when it comes to protecting and preserving what we care to save. It could be that last stand of oak trees bordering a still free running creek in the suburbs, or an overgrown urban lot with the potential to become a community garden. It could be a landscape once roamed by wolves and grizzlies that retains the capacity to support their return.
In the end, what we choose to save matters. By doing so, we just might save ourselves.