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Press Release: Poll Shows Residents of NM and AZ Overwhelmingly Support Restoration of Mexican Gray Wolves in the Wild

New genes, new populations, new recovery plan crucial to Mexican gray wolf survival September 4, 2013  (updated 09/14/13)

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

TUCSON (September 4, 2013) – Vast majorities in both Arizona and New Mexico strongly support continued efforts to restore Mexican gray wolves to the American southwest, according to a new poll released by Defenders of Wildlife. The poll comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering new proposals that would hamper Mexican gray wolf recovery and scheduling regional hearings to obtain public input on the proposal.

The poll, conducted last month for Defenders by Tulchin Research, shows that the majority of New Mexicans and Arizonans want to see wolves not just survive, but thrive, and want the FWS to take additional steps to ensure their continued recovery.
  • 87% of voters in both states agree that wolves are a “vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.”
  • 8 in 10 voters agree that the FWS should make every effort to prevent extinction.
  • 82% of Arizona voters and 74% of New Mexico voters agree there should be a science-based recovery plan.
Over two-thirds of voters in both states agree with scientists who say there are too few Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico and that we need to reintroduce two new populations of wolves in suitable habitat in the states.

“Americans in the southwest see wolves as a vital part of the local landscape and they want efforts to restore them to continue,” said Eva Sargent, Southwest director for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Fish and Wildlife Service can make this happen if they let science rule the day and refuse to kowtow to the small minority in the region who oppose wolf recovery under any circumstances.”

The FWS current proposal would jeopardize wolf recovery by establishing artificial boundaries around wolf habitat, leaving excellent habitat outside these boundaries. Currently, wolves must remain within invisible boundaries in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. If they establish territories outside this area, they are trapped and moved back, which scientists say is a hindrance to recovery. The new proposal would expand these boundaries, but would still capture and return any wolf that so much as strays outside.

“The Service continues to want to keep the wolves boxed in between arbitrary lines on a map,” said Sargent. “They are proposing a bigger box, but it’s still a box. If they are going to survive, we need to let wolves be wolves and allow them to live in suitable habitat throughout the region.”

Scientists also say that to recover, there need to be more releases of new wolves to strengthen the gene pool as well as new populations established in different areas of the Southwest, with dispersal allowed between those populations.

“By the late 1970s, the Mexican gray wolf was nearly eradicated and because today’s 75 wild individuals are all descended from the only seven wolves saved at that time, their genetic health has been severely compromised,” said Phil Hedrick, a geneticist and former Mexican gray wolf recovery team expert. “The Service knows this, and we have made it clear that if a recovery plan is not completed and implemented immediately, one which allows for dispersal, these animals cannot recover.”

The Service has announced that it will hold a public meeting to take comments that will help to determine the fate of these iconic, imperiled animals. The hearing will be held on Friday, October 4, 2013 in Albuquerque, NM. Defenders of Wildlife will host an open house for wolf advocates in advance of the meeting and members will be on hand to help attendees submit written and oral comments in hopes that we can make the Service hear the desperate howl of the Mexican gray wolf.

“If there’s one thing the Mexican gray wolves have on their side, it’s good objective scientists who are figuring out how to save them,” says Sargent. “What they don’t have is time. The Service must hear what science tells us the wolves need – access to suitable habitat in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and Northern New Mexico/Southern Colorado, new genes, and help establishing additional populations. When we give wolves our best effort, they return the favor by making landscapes healthier for everyone.”

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Reporter Resources:

View polling results

View a fact sheet on the Service’s proposal

Details about the hearing

Read Defenders’ report: “Places for Wolves;” “Wolves in the Southwest
Contact [for press only]: Courtney Sexton, 202-772-0523, csexton@defenders.org


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Act today to save Mexican wolves!
This new poll proves that the overwhelming majority of Arizona and New Mexico residents support Mexican wolf recovery and oppose the current proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to block recovery by establishing artificial boundaries around wolf habitat. But that support will only save endangered Mexican wolves if it’s demonstrated through action.

Plan to come to Albuquerque on October 4 for the hearing.
Thousands of wolf supporters will show NM's Senators and the US Fish and Wildlife Service the overwhelming support for Mexican wolf recovery.

And please submit comments on the USFWS proposal today and ask your friends and family to do the same.

Personalized comments are most effective, but you can also copy and paste the  following key points:

1. The good change is to allow direct releases of Mexican wolves throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.  The USFWS should put the rest of their proposed rule on hold and speed up approval for more direct releases in expanded areas.

This change has been recommended by experts for over 10 years and can be made faster and with less bureaucratic delay than any other part of the proposed rule.

2. The proposed rule effectively prevents wolves returning to the Grand Canyon region, including northern Arizona and southern Utah, or to northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The USFWS should eliminate boundaries to the wolves’ movement.

Scientists say some of the last best places for wolves are in these areas, but currently wolves who set up territories outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area are recaptured and moved back. Under the proposed change, the USFWS will recapture Mexican wolves just for going outside of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area whether they establish territories or not. Additional populations of Mexican wolves are necessary to their recovery and genetic health, as is the ability for wolves to move between populations.

Capturing and moving wolves is always a risky business that can result in death or trauma to the wolf. And a bigger box is still a box.

3. The USFWS should not re-designate Mexican gray wolves as experimental, non-essential. By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” the USFWS ignores science and the reality of 15 years of experience with reintroducing wolves.

The USFWS claims that even if all of the 75 wolves in the wild are wiped out this is not “likely to appreciably reduce the likelihood” of recovery of Mexican wolves in the wild. When the current rule declared wolves in the wild “nonessential” there were only 11 wolves, recently released from a captive breeding program, and they made up only 7% of all Mexican wolves in the world.

Now the 75 wolves in the wild have up to four generations of experience in establishing packs and raising pups and are over 22% of all of the Mexican wolves in the world. And after four generations of captive breeding with few releases, scientists warn that there may be serious genetic problems making captive wolves less able to thrive in the wild.

The fourth generation wild lobos are not expendable and are essential to recovering this unique subspecies of wolf.

4. The USFWS needs to quit stalling and complete a comprehensive recovery plan – and let the public see it – at the same time as or before changing the current rule (except for allowing wolves to be reintroduced into additional suitable places).

USFWS admits that their present, typewritten, 1982 recovery plan is not scientifically sound and does not meet current legal requirements – yet in its proposed rule USFWS continues to emphasize a woefully inadequate population of only 100 wolves in the wild.

When USFWS published the current rule in 1998 they said they expected to put out a new recovery plan for the public to comment on later that year; 15 years later, there still is no scientific or legally adequate recovery plan!

The proposed rule puts the cart before the horse and should come with or after – not before – an updated recovery plan

USFWS’s decisions on the proposed rule can help Mexican wolves finally thrive or can push them closer to extinction.   Please comment today, and ask others to do the same.

You can submit your comments online here:
http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056

Or by mail addressed to:
Public Comments Processing - Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056 
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203



Thank you for giving these special wolves a voice in their future.

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