Isle Royale National Park is currently accepting public feedback on what to do, if anything, to conserve the island’s dwindling, inbred wolf population. Currently there are eight adult wolves and an unknown number (two or three) of pups.
Three options are under consideration:
do nothing, even if wolves go extinct
allow wolves to go extinct and then introduce new wolves
introduce new wolves through genetic rescue (introducing adult wolves to the island to offset inbreeding)
In his engrossing Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve, John C. Miles, professor of environmental studies at Western Washington University, traces the history of wilderness protection in the parks from their earliest days to the book’s present, 2008.
The history of the National Parks and other protected lands in the United States is the story of continually evolving ideas about how and why natural and historical areas should be protected for the common good. At its noblest, it is an acknowledgement that the people, collectively, own and administer the wildest, most beautiful and most historically important areas in the nation. The hows and whys of acquiring and administering these places is intrinsically tied to the concept of land held for the common good.
Almost 150 years ago, on June 30, 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill granting scenic Yosemite Valley to the state of California to be held in the public interest as a park (eventually the valley would return to federal control as part of Yosemite National Park). Eight years later, when Congress moved to protect the geothermal features around the headwaters of the Yellowstone River in a region that lay in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho territories, there was no state to give the park to, so by default it became a national park. The concept of the national park was born out of necessity.
The title of this blog is an adaptation of Theodore Roosevelt’s words upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time:
Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.
Roosevelt was talking about a great natural site before it would be protected. Already there were mining designs on sections of the canyon. Parts of it were no longer pristine wilderness, and they aren’t now, nor will be. Now, as then, there are parts of the park designated wilderness and others for heavy tourist use.
I have no illusion that the parks as my traveling companions and I will experience them are truly pristine (save for perhaps the remotest of the Alaska parks), but they are somewhere on a continuum between civilization and wilderness.
We lunched at the Greenstone Grill one last time. We’d had the same server all the times we’d been there. Her name was Katie, and although she’d worked on the north rim of the Grand Canyon last summer, she hailed from Ferndale, Michigan.
After lunch, we had some time for last-minute souvenir shopping while we waited to board the ferry. Adam struck up a conversation with Ranger Lauren in the visitor center. She explained how about forty of the park’s sixty-five summer staff were seasonal since the park shuts down between October and April, and that she’d essentially be laid off at the end of the season. She hoped, though, to return to Isle Royale next year. She also said that full-time, established rangers are able to move from park to park until they find the one they want to stay at.
It was our final morning on Isle Royale. We’d be taking the ferry back to Copper Harbor at 2:45 that afternoon. First thing, Adam went down to the dock to see if they were letting people rent motorboats that day.
They were, so Adam and Phil made the arrangements while Sean and I got a breakfast table at the Grill. Afterward, we donned our life jackets and headed out into Rock Harbor, just before the Ranger III set sail.
Scoville Point is the northeast tip of the peninsula ridge that houses Rock Harbor Lodge and visitor center. It is at the end of the 4.2-mile loop of Stoll Trail. We set out with little more than water for an afternoon hike there and back.
We reached Rock Harbor in the late afternoon, and to our relief, we had our pick of campsites. There were even shelters available. We looked at one, but decided that we simply preferred to sleep in our tents.
Thursday morning we woke up and took stock. In our original itinerary, tonight would have been when we camped at Daisy Farm, but we’d already been here two nights. Already the regret of not having made it to a campground on an interior lake, with an increased likelihood of seeing more wildlife, was hugely mitigated by having been at Daisy Farm the evening before for Candy Peterson’s talk.
We decided to begin the hike back to Rock Harbor where, Friday night, we had a room reserved at the lodge. Our goal for Thursday, however, was Three Mile. We hoped to get the same lovely, harbor-side campsite we’d had Monday night, or at least the one adjacent.