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Op-Ed: To protect wolves’ future is to protect our future

Albuquerque Journal, Carol Fugagli / Cliff Resident, August 27, 2014

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By Carol Fugagli / Cliff Resident

My family lives in Mexican gray wolf country along the banks of the upper Gila River in the Cliff-Gila Valley, three miles from the southern edge of the Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico. We live simply, on a small milk-goat farm, growing most of our own food and selling, what we can, to our neighbors.

Our orchards and gardens are filled with free-ranging chickens, turkeys and ducks; and our hearts are filled with gratitude both for the lives we lead and the larger complex of life that surrounds and sustains us.

My son, Hawk, is home-schooled and we spend a lot of time outdoors.

When Hawk was 4, we went camping in the Gila wilderness. We got lucky.

Lying in our sleeping bags after dark, we both heard our first wolf.

“What’s that mama?” he asked, a little nervously.

“That’s life,” I thought. “That is life howling at the moon at the cutting edge of time. That, my dear child, is the opposite of nothingness. That is the antithesis of death. That is the deep past and the unknowable future held together by muscle and sinew and desire.”

“It’s a wolf,” I finally said, “and you are very lucky to hear one.”

“But aren’t you afraid,” he asked?

“No,” I said. “I’m not afraid of the wolf, or of mountain lions, or bears, or lightning, or poison ivy. But what I am afraid of is that the wolf that we just heard could be shot. I’m afraid that I will never hear that sound again. I’m afraid that the rivers will be dammed and the soil will be lost and that too many species of birds will disappear forever.

“I’m afraid that my neighbor’s hearts are too small. I’m afraid that most people have forgotten who and what they are. I’m afraid that you will grow up without knowing beauty or wonder.”

Well, OK, maybe I didn’t say all that, but he got the message.

He’s not afraid of wolves. Sweet boy, at 10 years old, he’s not even afraid of the future – at least not yet.

“The great terror of our age,” wrote Loren Eiseley, “is our own conception of ourselves.” Yes, I care about wolves, but I care about my son even more, and I want him to know that the human heart is large, that our species is special because we get to choose who and what we are, that narrow self-interest, hatred and fear doesn’t have to define the human character, that the Endangered Species Act is not only about recovering the Mexican gray wolf, it’s also about recovering ourselves.

I understand that it’s hard sometimes to give the wolf or other listed species a free pass, especially when livelihoods are believed to be at stake.

But for me, the Endangered Species Act remains a sacred trust between my family and my government guaranteeing us that the diversity of life contained within our national boundaries will not be diminished by human agency.

The protections that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could and should and must provide the Mexican gray wolf on its long road to full recovery is the people’s business. It’s my business.

They are working for me, and for Hawk, and for millions of other Americans who not only want a future filled with wolf song, but demand it under the law.

The Endangered Species Act is not the jack boot of big government. The Endangered Species Act is me. The jack boots are mine. I’m one who wants the world to stay alive.

I want Hawk to know beauty and wonder.

I am not afraid of wolves. But I am so very afraid of a future without them.

This Op-Ed was published in the Albuquerque Journal.

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Do you want a future with wolves?

ACT NOW!  Endangered Mexican Wolves Need Your Help!

Submit a letter to the editor responding to this Op-Ed and influence decision-makers and thousands of your fellow citizens. 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.

With fewer than 90 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to make changes that could push them closer to extinction or finally help them thrive. The decision will be made in the next few months and they need to hear from you!


Talking points

  • Start by thanking the paper for this Op-Ed.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) should move forward with allowing new wolves to be released throughout the larger area proposed.The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered mammal in the U.S. with only about 83 in the wild.  Additional wolves must be released into the wild now to increase the genetic health of the species. Numerous wolves are in captive breeding facilities around the country, prepared for, and awaiting, release.
  • USFWS should not allow more killing of critically endangered wolves. The draft proposal will push Mexican gray wolves towards extinction by allowing many more of them to be killed under all kinds of justifications. With fewer than 90 in the wild, every wolf is important. These native lobos need more protections, not less.
  • 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. People who care about wolves have an important opportunity to speak out for their recovery through September 23, 2014.  Comments can be submitted electronically here:  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056-6056.  More information can be found atmexicanwolves.org.
  • Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. They will naturally avoid places with high densities of humans and low prey availability. USFWS must change the rules that do not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery.
  • Additional populations of Mexican wolves north of I-40 are necessary to their recovery and genetic health, as is the ability for wolves to move between populations. 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.
  • The USFWS should designate Mexican gray wolves as essential. By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” the USFWS ignores science and the reality of 16 years of experience with reintroducing wolves. The 83 wolves in the wild have up to 5 generations of experience in establishing packs and raising pups and are over 22% of all of the Mexican wolves in the world.The fifth generation wild lobos are not expendable and are essential to recovering this unique subspecies of wolf. 
  • The 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 ignore the best available science and the recommendations of its own science recovery planning subgroup.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing the Op-Ed.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
  • Make your letter personal. Don't be afraid to use humor or personal stories. Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
  • 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.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE USFWS PROPOSAL
AND SUBMIT COMMENTS, CLICK HERE.

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