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Guest Column: Game and Fish plan makes it easier to kill wolves

'Extinction alternative' shows how out of touch the department is with Arizonans. AZ Republic, 5/7/14

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Larry Voyles' column on Monday, "Mexican wolf proposal offers needed balance," is just one example of how the Arizona Game and Fish Department and its commission are out of step with wildlife conservation and the vast majority of the public.

The proposal Game and Fish calls the "cooperating agencies alternative" is a collection of previously discarded policies that failed to promote wolf recovery in the past and will not promote wolf recovery in the future. It will keep wolves from truly regaining their role in supporting healthy ecosystems and will surely contribute to their demise, if not a second extinction in the wild.

The proposal that Game and Fish director Voyles says brings "balance" would make it much easier to kill endangered Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. It will allow Game and Fish and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services to arbitrarily establish a cap of 125 wolves, with all wolves above the cap to be killed or permanently incarcerated. And it will restrict the wolves to a small portion of potential habitat.

That is not balance. That is not recovery. And it is contrary to the recommendations from the best wolf biologists.

The alternative endorsed by Game and Fish also recommends that management of wolves be taken away from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where it has been since passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, and given to the state, which has become increasingly hostile to wolves.

Development of the proposal endorsed by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission included nearly all of the groups that historically object to wolf recovery — livestock interests, trappers, and some counties and hunting groups — but no groups that support recovery.

The document was not made available for review until right before the commission's telephone meeting. Members of the public who wished to comment were required to be at the Game and Fish office in north Phoenix, rather than being able to participate from satellite offices, as is often the case.

The department and commission should be embarrassed by their conduct and that they endorsed an alternative that is contrary to federal law and the best science.

Mexican gray wolves are native to the Southwest and are an important part of our natural heritage. There are only 83 in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. Now is not the time to further hinder their recovery.

Yes, we do need balance, and to achieve that balance, we need wolves and other predators restored to the Southwestern landscape. We need a state wildlife agency that understands its mission and its responsibilities to all of Arizona's wildlife and all of Arizona's people.

What we don't need is another "planned" extinction for wolves. Arizona Game and Fish should spend less time trying to convince us that it is doing the right thing and spend more time actually doing the right thing.

Sandy Bahr is director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter.

This guest column was published by the Arizona Republic.
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PLEASE TAKE ACTION FOR MEXICAN WOLVES

Please submit a letter to the Editor to ensure the future of critically endangered Mexican gray wolves today!

One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers. Tips and talking points are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.

Talking points

  • Start by thanking the paper for this article.
  • The USFWS should move forward now with allowing new wolves to be released throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered mammal in the U.S. with only about 83 in the wild.  Additional populations of Mexican wolves are necessary to their recovery and genetic health, as is the ability for wolves to move between populations. Numerous wolves are in captive breeding facilities around the country, prepared for, and awaiting, release.
  • The alternative endorsed by AZ Game and Fish shows why wolves need federal protections. Scientists have said that far more wolves are needed for the Mexican gray wolf to achieve recovery. AZ Game and Fish’s proposal would keep the number artificially low, and allow endangered wolves to be killed for a much broader range of reasons than is currently allowed.
  • Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. The USFWS proposal and the AZ Game and Fish alternative do not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery. Capturing and moving wolves because they roam beyond an artificial boundary is always a risky business that can result in death or trauma to the wolf.
  • Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and New Mexico and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long. 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.
  • The USFWS should designate Mexican gray wolves as essential. The 83 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. The fourth generation wild lobos are not expendable and are essential to recovering this unique subspecies of wolf. By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” the USFWS ignores science and the reality of 16 years of experience with reintroducing wolves.
  • USFWS needs to quit stalling and complete a comprehensive recovery plan. USFWS admits that their 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.
  • Arizona Game and Fish is once again trying to obstruct Mexican wolf recovery with this “alternative". AZ Game and Fish should honor its responsibility to all of Arizona’s wildlife and citizens by supporting rule changes that promote Mexican wolf recovery instead of hindering it.
  • Polls show 83% of Arizona voters and 80% of New Mexico voters support Mexican wolf recovery. Polls also show overwhelming support – 81% in Arizona and 73% in New Mexico – for restoring wolves in the Grand Canyon region and northern New Mexico, areas of suitable habitat that scientists say are vital for the wolves in order to recover.
  • People who care about wolf recovery and want to help can find more information at mexicanwolves.org.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing this article.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.)
  • Keep your letter brief – no more than 200 words.
  • Provide your name, address, phone number and address.  The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
  • Submit your letter here.
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Donate to support our work for Mexican gray wolf recovery.
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Photos courtesy of Wolf Haven International