Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Beware of false equivalencies!

I like watching nature documentaries, and last night I watched one that I checked out from the library about wolves and buffalo, which originally aired as an episode of the venerable PBS show Nature.  In it, they made a claim that I have to take a little bit of exception to.

They said that the Wood Buffalo National Park (in, mostly, northern Alberta) was five times the size of Yellowstone National Park.  This is very nearly true (I got 4.98 times, to be very specific.)  However, the clear implication was that the Yellowstone ecosystem was not nearly as large a protected area as the Wood Buffalo area.  This is not true, since Yellowstone is surrounded by additional wilderness areas.  Being extremely conservative, I'm not counting National Forests as protected (because they do allow mixed use) except in the case of National Parks and federally designated Wilderness areas.  This isn't exactly fair, though, because there are also Wilderness Study areas and Roadless areas, that behave exactly like Wilderness Areas in terms of land management and level of protection, except that it was not specifically done so through an act of Congress.

Adding the square mileage of Yellowstone National Park, plus neighboring Grand Teton National Park, the Teton Wilderness, the Washakie Wilderness, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the North Absaroka Wilderness, the Popo Agie Wilderness, the Bridger Wilderness, the Fitzpatrick Wilderness, the Gros Ventre Wilderness, the Jededia Smith Wilderness and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, we get nearly 11,000 square miles of contiguous, or nearly contiquous protected area, compared to 17,300 of Wood Buffalo.  It's still smaller, but now it's comparable.  And, like I said, if you add in the Wilderness Study Areas and Roadless areas that are part of the same ecosystem, now you're talking about a protected area that rivals the world's second largest national park in size, if not exceeding it. 

And sure, there's a few tony little towns like Jackson, WY, and lonely two-lane highways that bisect this area.  Then again, that's true of National Parks in Canada (and the US, not to pick on our northern neighbors) as well.

So, the claim was accurate, but at the same time, quite misleading.  The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is like a smaller and more accessible slice of Alaska in the lower 48, and it's directly comparable to the Wood Buffalo National Park in size.  Blows it away in terms of scenery, though.


Joshua Dyal said...

Almost exactly 15,000 sq. miles (14,999, to be clear) if you take the entirety of Bridger-Teton, Shoshone and Custer National Forests and add them to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Joshua Dyal said...

Haha! I forgot the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (because it's mostly just across the border in Idaho.) That brings the total of protected land in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to over 19,000 square miles. Bigger than the Wood Buffalo National Park.