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“While it may be hard to square why society should value such species, or care if their habitats disappear . . .”, a telling indictment of “society”, indeed.
THe “Great Smoky Mts.’, by the way, is too small an area to support even a minimum viable population of a small wolf, Canis rufus, which weight in barely above the 20Kg lower limit on what are called large carnivores.
Thus the “great” is an inaccurate appellation in a vast hellish sea of humanity (over 2/3 the US population lives east of the Mississippi), and if one travels these days in the US west, the land is filled with and sequestered by, fences.
The heavily armed European immigrant population there prevents any effective dispersal of native animals that only two medium lifetimes ago, seasonally migrated from high to low elevations, with some north-to-south movement, and a healthy effect on soils and fertility.
While several nonprofit nongovernmental organizations attempt to sway governments, communities, “private landowners”, and the like toward migration and safe dispersal corridor creation, little has been done in response.
THe Yellowstone to Yukon can calim mild success, mostly in Canada, the oil/gas extraction pads just south, in Wyoming’s Pinedale area into the Uintas and the more desert mountains support more of those human phytophtherae and zootophtherae murder whatever they can (including more immense poaching than is commonly reported).
As Carroll points out, most lowlands, western mountain valleys, and almost all significant wetland and estuarine areas are overswarmed by one species, Homosapiens, which against the normal grain of biotic life, almost completely excludes all other species, excepting only a few commensals and domestics.
While some anthropocentric scientists have recently lobbied for return of 50% of the earth’s land surface to unexploited natural ecosystems, others, largely those more familiar with the population viability analyses, caution that the necessary proportion required is more like 2/3.
We live in a momentary few human generations of incredibly dense human overbloom, and all natural constraints are feverishly fought against, even as our kind have swept the oceans, (increasingly exploiting krill, the herbivore of the seas, preventing recovery there), and built those massive barriers to land organism dispersal called “highways.”
Even as numerous microorganisms, natural population controls, have increased speed of their evolution in response, far too many millions of humans have found profit as research engineers, working in several scales to stop all natural constraint. This has passed crisis level.
The species will not cease its attempt to further overgrow, over”develop”, overexploit.
All overbloomed species tend to experience ecological rebalance, the much-vaunted self-serving social human brain is not an organ of increased intelligence, but only one of intraspecific social manipulation, which is not adapted to functional ecological restoration, except through the long-known increased propensity to violence, which merely mirrors the evolutionary behavioral adaptations of other species suffering overdense aggregations.