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In the News: Wolf supporters, cattlemen face off at Capitol over Turner ranch permit denial

Santa Fe New Mexican – Letters are needed!

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Only a few yards separated supporters of the Mexican gray wolf from ranchers and cattle industry representatives rallying Tuesday outside the state Capitol, but the ideological chasm between the two factions yawned much wider.

About 10 members of the livestock industry gathered in a show of support for the State Game Commission’s decision this month to deny a permit for a wolf recovery and reintroduction assistance program at media mogul/philanthropist Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch. Turner’s property borders the Gila National Forest in Southern New Mexico, a gateway for wolves to reach private ranches, according to those who raise livestock for a living.

Ranchers looked on skeptically as a much larger group of wildlife conservation advocates, some wearing mock wolf-head hats, tilted their heads upward and howled. They called on Gov. Susana Martinez to overturn the decision by her own appointed commission.

Martinez on Tuesday was in Dallas for the Republican Governors Association Policy Summit.

Kerrie Cox Romero, executive director of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, echoed comments by state game commissioners as to why Turner’s ranch shouldn’t provide refuge for wolves.

“This was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s lack of follow-through with the Mexican wolf recovery plan that led to this denial,” she said.

“We don’t see a reason to continue captive-breeding wolves if there’s no mechanism for release. Until the Fish and Wildlife Service comes together with a Mexican wolf recovery plan, with concrete numbers in terms of population goals and in terms of delisting objectives, then we completely stand behind the State Game Commission’s decision to deny the permit,” she said.

On the other side of yellow “caution” tape placed by Capitol security personnel to separate the groups, Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity disagreed.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has in many respects been doing the bidding of the people who hate the wolves by ensuring that only very seldom are they released into the wild, and by, quite frankly, delaying [renewal] of the recovery plan.”

A federal recovery plan has been in place since 1982, after the Mexican gray wolf subspecies was listed as endangered in 1976. It set goals that include the re-establishment of a wolf population of 100. At the end of 2014, the population was 109.

Carlos Salazar, a rancher whose property is part of the Juan Bautista Valdez Land Grant near Abiquiú, hasn’t had to contend with wolf attacks on his livestock. But, he said, the reintroduction efforts represent a potential encroachment on historical property rights. He praised the governor for standing up to advocates for the wolves, saying, “She’s not afraid of them.”

The competing demonstrations were the latest flare-up in a long-simmering debate between wildlife conservationists and landsmen. Both sides have made dire predictions.

Advocates for Mexican wolves say these lobos could disappear from the planet. State Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, expressed the feelings of many ranchers during the last session of the Legislature when said he hoped wolves would simply go extinct in the U.S.

He said in phone interview Tuesday that he still feels that way. “I just hope we can have a little more concern with ranchers and farmers in New Mexico.”

Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for the governor, declined to comment for this article, deferring to representatives from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. An agency spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Conservation advocates, on the other hand, said wolves are an integral component of balancing Southwest ecosystems that have been thrown out of whack by human intervention.

“Ranchers want to be able to put livestock out to graze on public lands, but of course that means they’re going to have to live with predators,” said Alex Mirabal, who co-founded an advocacy group called Albuquerque Environmental Action. “The livestock industry in New Mexico has really been catered to, and I think better livestock practices really could help.”

This article was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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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

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