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Editorial: Our View: Let Ladder Ranch keep helping wolves

The Santa Fe New Mexican editorial board, May 18, 2015 Letters Needed!

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For 17 years, Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in Sierra County has been a place where endangered Mexican gray wolves could find temporary refuge. Now, with a decision by the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission, that refuge is gone.

On May 7, commissioners decided to deny a permit that would have continued to allow the ranch to provide pen space to wolves that either were being released into, or temporarily released from, the wild. The governor should reverse the commission’s denial.

The re-introduction of the wolf to the wild needs as much support as possible, and having holding pens close to wolf habitat makes management easier. There are other such facilities, such as those at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. But Turner’s ranch is closest to wolf habitat with 157,000 acres up against the Gila National Forest, where the wolves are being reintroduced. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, which oversees the wolf introduction program, say they are disappointed in the decision.

From noon to 1:30 p.m. today, supporters of the Mexican gray wolf are rallying at the Roundhouse to try and persuade Gov. Susana Martinez to reverse the decision. Wolf supporter Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said, “We go there in good faith outside the Capitol in hopes the governor will listen to us.”

Why a permit is necessary is hard to understand, anyway. The rule that requires a permit only dates back to November of 2014, when the commission decided that private facilities that assist in programs to recover and reintroduce mammalian carnivores needed one.

As a letter asking the governor to overrule the decision states: “In addition to undermining the important role played by the Ladder Ranch in the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort, this provision puts at risk the ability of other facilities to help in conservation of endangered carnivores. We find it odd and inappropriate for state government to interfere with philanthropic activities conducted responsibly by a private landowner on private lands to offset expenses that otherwise would be borne by taxpayers.”

Requiring the permits smacks of unnecessary government intrusion on the actions of a private landowner. It appears this is just another way to curb re-introduction of the endangered Mexican gray wolf in New Mexico — too many ranchers in Southern New Mexico would rather let a species die out than lose an occasional calf. Game and Fish might disagree with how the Mexican gray wolf re-introduction is being handled, but deal with those issues directly. Don’t harm the efforts at Ladder Ranch.

Such a decision is short-sighted. A governor who is thinking of moving to the national political stage should take a long view — helping save the wolf is a much stronger position than helping allow a creature that so many love die out. By green-lighting the permit, Martinez has a chance to become a hero. She should grab it.

Photo courtesy of California Wolf Center.
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Please take a stand for Mexican wolf recovery with a letter to the editor!
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 and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
  • The actions of the New Mexico Game Commission in this matter are small-minded and violate the public trust. Governor Martinez needs to make this right by getting the Ladder ranch permit granted and giving authority back to the Department of Game and Fish.
  • For 17 years, Ladder Ranch has been an excellent partner in the effort to pull Mexican wolves back from the brink of extinction. New Mexico Game Commission has given no good reason for denial of the permit because it has none-only a desire to block the recovery of these native wolves. This decision should be reversed immediately.
  • At last official count, only 109 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world. Actions such as NM Game Commission’s unwarranted denial of the Ladder Ranch permit will only further complicate efforts to recover these rare wolves.
  • The New Mexico Game Commission, under Governor Martinez, has clearly become a tool of a small anti-wolf minority and its actions are out of touch with the majority of New Mexico voters who support wolf recovery and understand the important role top carnivores play in our ecosystems.
  • Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature. Actions to interfere with the Mexican gray wolf’s survival and recovery cheat us all of the opportunity to have wolves returned to their critical natural role.
  • Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world. State and federal agencies should do all in their power to move these special wolves away from extinction towards recovery. Instead, Martinez's Game Commission has chosen play politics with the wolves’ future.
  • Wolves generate economic benefits - a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy. New Mexico stands to benefit from wolf-related tourism, but only if the Mexican wolf reintroduction is allowed to succeed.
  • The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses and there are many tried and true methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves. Responsible managers and livestock owners emphasize conflict avoidance instead of scapegoating wolves.
  • The federal government nearly drove the Mexican gray wolf to extinction in the 1900’s. We have a moral responsibility to do all we can to ensure these wolves do not go extinct and NM Game Commission is ignoring that sacred charge and their public trust responsibility.
  • Governor Martinez and her Game Commission should not be interfering with the rights of a responsible landowner to use his private land to aid wolf recovery.

Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for this excellent editorial.
  • Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published.
  • Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, but…”  Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
  • 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 to the Santa Fe New Mexican here: letters@sfnewmexican.com
Since the rally on Tuesday, additional articles about it have been published in the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican. You can submit letters with the same types of talking points responding to those articles as well.

Submit your letter to the ABQ Journal here: http://www.abqjournal.com/letters/new

Want to do more to help save Mexican wolves?

Tell Governor Martinez: Stop Taking Aim at Endangered Wolves

Contact the Governor’s office
and request respectfully that she put an end to her Commission’s anti-carnivore state wildlife policies, grant the Mexican wolf permit to Ladder Ranch, and rescind the rule giving the Commission this authority.

Calls are most effective: 505-476-2200
Email: http://www.governor.state.nm.us/Contact_the_Governor.aspx