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In the News: Backers of wolf recovery program rally in Santa Fe

Albuquerque Journal – Letters Needed!

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SANTA FE – With speeches, songs and occasional wolf howls, supporters of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to protest a recent decision by the state Game Commission.

The commission denied the renewal of a permit that allows Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in Sierra County to hold wolves in pens when the federal government is releasing them into, or removing them from, the wild.

Wolf recovery supporters said that could impede the ongoing effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that has resulted in the release of more than 100 wolves.

“This decision was purely political, based on no scientific consideration whatsoever, and has the appearance of being vindictive,” targeting both Turner and the wolf, said Dave Parsons, who coordinated the federal agency’s recovery program for nine years.

One rally-goer held a sign accusing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez – who appoints the commission – of a “war on wildlife.” Protesters signed petitions asking her to reverse the decision, to support the program, and to back off on proposals regarding cougars and bears.

The Game Commission is holding hearings on proposals to expand bear hunting and to allow cougars to be trapped on public lands.

The Ladder Ranch had been permitted for the past 17 years to hold the wolves in large pens, with the permits renewed by the Game and Fish Department director. But the commission in November established a new rule requiring that such permits be OK’d by the commission itself.

The commission denied the permit on May 7.

In response to a request for comment after the rally, the Governor’s Office said the Game Commission believes the federal government’s 33-year-old wolf recovery plan is outdated.

“Especially given that the threshold for wolf reintroduction in New Mexico has been exceeded, the plan should be revisited before additional steps are taken,” said Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for Martinez.

A 1998 federal rule said the objective was to re-establish a self-sustaining population of at least 100 wolves.

But Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity says that figure was never a cap, and says newer science – the 1998 rule was based on a 1982 recovery plan – indicates that’s not enough for successful recovery.

According to a 2014 census by the Fish and Wildlife Service, there were 109 Mexican gray wolves in the wild.

There was a smaller counter-rally at the Capitol as well on Tuesday, with farmers and ranchers supporting the Game Commission and Martinez.

They said in interviews that the wolf reintroduction program threatened the livelihood of ranchers because wolves kill livestock. And they said the wolves are a threat to humans.

“We have actual experiences on the ground. … We have a livelihood” to protect, said Dalene Hodnett, president of New Mexico CowBelles . She says the wolf program is a failure that has cost taxpayers millions and “put ranching families out of business.”

Carlos Salazar, president of the Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association, carried a sign that said, “People Over Wolves. Protect Our Children.” He said he worries that the wolf reintroduction efforts could spread north in New Mexico and harm the livestock-raising that small ranchers count on.

This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.


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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 ABQ Journal here: http://www.abqjournal.com/letters/new

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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

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