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Editorial: Give Wolves a Chance

AZ Republic Editorial Board, June 4, 2013

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Those who continue to peddle scary stories and post signs urging people to “beware” of endangered Mexican gray wolves haven’t looked at the numbers.

Since 1998, when wolves were reintroduced to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, 46 of the rare animals have been illegally shot, 17 died of natural causes, 14 died in vehicle collisions, 12 were killed by government agents and four died in capture-related incidents or legal public shootings. The fate of nine is unknown, and two dead animals are awaiting necropsy.

Only 75 were left at the end of 2012.

Beware the people. Not the wolves. A few people.

Environmentalists who track such things say ranchers who support or tolerate the reintroduction process exist. But they don’t grab the microphones.

Public-land ranchers with an entitlement mentality are big wolf opponents. Their position is out of sync with reality.

After all, most Western ranchers rely on public-land leases to graze their cattle. As anybody who has ever rented an apartment can tell you, a lease is not a deed of ownership.

The public owns the public lands. Those lands are meant to support a variety of uses. Grazing is one use.

Here’s another: Federal law makes preserving and restoring endangered species a national value.

If achieving a healthy population of wolves proves inconvenient for public-land ranchers, it might be time to rethink those grazing leases.

The wolf-recovery program is not the problem. But it has problems.

Big ones.

The number of wolves in the recovery area remains well below expectations, and the genetic diversity of wolves in captivity has not been maximized because too few animals are being released into the wild.

In April, for the first time in more than four years, a captive-bred pair of Mexican wolves were released in Arizona. Another pair were released in New Mexico, but Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity says the male is already back in captivity.

Public-land ranchers continue to make this program so controversial that it’s easier for federal bureaucrats not to pursue vigorous recovery efforts on behalf of an animal brought to the brink of extinction at the behest of ranchers years ago.

The 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan has not been updated. Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earned another “Procrastinator’s Award” when it — once again — failed to produce a promised revision.

Robinson, who is based near the wolf-recovery area in New Mexico, says Fish and Wildlife has lost track of some the telemetry receivers it lent to ranchers so they could keep track of radio-collared wolves. With so many endangered wolves being illegally shot, that’s just nuts.

In a recent story by Arizona Republic reporter Brandon Loomis, rancher John Hand opined that he’d “probably shoot” wolves on his ranch, which includes public land.

Your land.

This kind of entitlement attitude by ranchers should not be allowed to doom wolf-recovery efforts.

Enter the environmental groups, armed with lawsuits to make the feds do their job.

That’s the hard way, but as long as the land-management agencies act scared of the big, bad ranchers, it’s the only way to ensure wolves have a chance.
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This editorial was published by the AZ Republic.  You can also video about Mexican gray wolves at this site.

PLEASE SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR TODAY,
THANKING THE AZ REPUBLIC FOR THIS EDITORIAL AND EXPRESSING YOUR SUPPORT FOR WOLVES.

The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers.  Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Some talking points for your letter are below-remember that it will be most effective written in your own words, from your own experience.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org.

Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.

A new, science-based recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan is way overdue; the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be doing all in its power to expedite release of a draft plan based on the work of the scientific subcommittee. Development of a new recovery plan that will address decreased genetic health and ensure long-term resiliency in Mexican wolf populations must move forward without delay.

The majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.

Obstruction by anti-wolf special interests and politics has kept this small population of unique and critically endangered wolves at the brink of extinction for too long and can no longer be allowed to do so. The US Fish and Wildlife Service must manage for the wolves’ full recovery, including implementing needed management changes and greater protections.  Senator Tom Udall and other NM and AZ members of Congress should use their influence to ensure the wolves can succeed.

Wolves bring tremendous ecological benefits to entire ecosystems and all wildlife.  Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.  Science has repeatedly demonstrated that wolves are keystone carnivores who help to keep wildlife like elk and deer healthy and bring balance to the lands they inhabit.

You can make your letter more compelling by talking about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you.  If you’re a camper or hiker wanting to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.

Keep your letter brief, between 150-200 words.

Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.

Please send us a copy at info@mexicanwolves.org as well to help us track actions being taken for the wolves.

Thank you for taking the time to write a letter on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves!

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Photo credit: Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center