THE howl of the gray wolf is rarely heard today in the United States, where the species has been nearly extinct for 50 years. But it has an excellent chance of being heard again in the wild sometime early in the 1990s. All that's needed is the return of as few as 10 breeding pairs to ancient wolf range in Yellowstone National Park.
The restoration of this magnificent, often misunderstood predator will be a symbol of how man can restore to nature something important that he once removed. Wolves were trapped, poisoned, and shot under federal auspices before their role in balanced ecosystems was widely understood. For Americans, just planning for the wolf's restoration marks a turning point in attitudes about wildlife.
Indications are the House will pass federal legislation leading to wolf restoration in Yellowstone early in 1990. HR 2786, the legislation introduced by Rep. Wayne Owens (D) of Utah, mandates that the Secretary of the Interior complete by Dec. 31, 1991, an environmental impact statement on reintroduction of the wolf. The bill has over 80 bipartisan cosponsors. Similar support is assured in the Senate.
Restoration of the wolf will be an environmental victory for everyone, not just aficionados of the animal. The campaign to restore the wolf signifies that Americans are ready to save what is undeniably theirs - entire ecosystems where the predator-prey relationship keeps life in balance.
Eventually, the wolf will help cull and strengthen herds of elk and bison. No more should members of bulging populations of those animals starve to death in Wyoming winters as they did last year. And there should be adequate food for those that survive.