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Editorial: Lack of a wolf plan should have U.S. howling mad

Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board, 6/16/15 Letters Needed

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“In many respects, the primary underlying impediment to Mexican gray wolf recovery has been, and continues to be, the lack of a (comprehensive recovery) plan.”
– Lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife

This summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to make its fourth attempt at finally updating the 1982 Mexican gray wolf recovery plan.

Thirty-nine years after the wolf was listed as endangered, 33 years after a recovery program was roughed out, and 110 inbred wolves later, it’s about time.

The original goal of 100 wild wolves from a breeding group of seven is now a population objective of 300 to 325 wolves in the wild, preferably from a more diverse/less compromised gene pool – and that’s apparently not the final recovery goal.

The public that has spent millions of dollars on the program – that includes foes of wolf re-introduction, as well as supporters – deserves to know what that final goal is.

According to a 2014 lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife by Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Wolf Center, David R. Parsons and the Wolf Conservation Center, “the absence of a legitimate agency blueprint for Mexican gray wolf recovery underlies the ongoing challenges facing the subspecies’ recovery program. Accordingly, those challenges could be resolved through the production and implementation of a scientifically based and legally valid recovery plan to guide and drive Mexican gray wolf management decisions, such as scheduled releases to promote genetic diversity, necessary limitations on wolf removals by FWS and the public, and delineation of appropriate geographic areas to facilitate wolf recovery.” Arizona filed a similar lawsuit.

Because the federal government’s end game is to build up the population of Mexican gray wolves to the point where species management could be turned over to the states, four needs to be the charm on finally delivering a comprehensive federal recovery program. That’s the only way to ever be able to measure if this program can be sustainable and thus successful.

For the sake of the wolves and the public’s coffers.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Photo courtesy of Wolf Conservation Center
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Your help is needed to keep Mexican wolf recovery in the news!

Letters to the editor are powerful tools read by the public and policy makers.

Let’s rally behind the message that a recovery plan is the road to survival!

Please submit a letter and highlight the importance of wolves to ecosystems, how wolves are imperiled due to lack of genetic diversity, and that innovative “coexistence” programs are underway to prevent conflict. (See talking points below for more ideas.)

Get started right away.  Make a difference for wolves; be a voice for those who can’t speak. Everything you need follows—tips for writing, where to send, etc.

Be sure to use your own words and write from your heart! Tell your own story and don’t delay. Your chances of getting published increase if you respond within a day or two of the article’s publication.

Sample Talking Points
Include some of these points but use your own words.  See tips below for crafting a good letter.

About the importance of Mexican gray wolves:
  • Recent polls confirm that the majority of voters in both Arizona and New Mexico strongly support wolf recovery.
  • Lobos are in dire straits! Once an icon of the American southwest, there are only 109 left in the wild in the United States.
  • Wolves are important carnivores that contribute to the environmental health of the areas they inhabit. Wolves help keep nature in balance for all of us.
  • We have a moral responsibility to do all we can to restore these endangered animals to their essential natural role.
  • There are many resources and tools available to help livestock owners coexist responsibly with wolves and other wildlife.
  • Mexican wolves are intelligent, family oriented animals who should be protected and recovered from the brink of extinction.
About the need for a Mexican wolf recovery plan:
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent recovery team has done extensive, rigorous work to determine what needs to be done to save the Mexican gray wolf, but the Service has still never written or implemented a legally sufficient Mexican gray wolf recovery plan.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service is mandated to put science and recovery ahead of special interest politics.
  • The lobos were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1976, almost 40 years ago. And even though the ESA legally requires the Service to develop recovery plans for such critically threatened wildlife, the Service still hasn’t done so for Mexican gray wolves. Isn’t it about time?
  • Not only is a recovery plan legally required, but it would bring science to the forefront and get the wolves out of danger faster – which is the point of the reintroduction program.
  • A recovery plan provides a necessary, science-based road map for wildlife managers to follow. Only with a plan can they guide Mexican gray wolves from being critically endangered to being recovered.
  • Recovery team scientists agree that, in order to survive, lobos require the establishment of at least three linked populations. The habitats capable of supporting the two additional populations are in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico/southern Colorado. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ignoring the scientists’ recommendations by proposing a rule change that will not allow Mexican wolves into these key habitats.
  • The current recovery team has not met since 2011. In the meantime, lobos have continued to struggle to survive in the wild. How can a science-based plan be produced or implemented when the team isn’t meeting and draft recommendations are being suppressed?

Letter Writing Tips
  • Start by thanking the paper for the article.
  • Keep it short and sweet—150-200 words. Choose one or two points and make those well.  Don’t try to cover everything.
  • Provide your name, address and phone number; this info will not be published, but they are required for the paper to publish your letter.
  • Make one or two clear points vs. attempting to cover several--it’s hard to make several points with this short word length; letters get confusing and watered down.
  • Submit your letter here. http://www.abqjournal.com/letters/new
You can also help by contacting the USFWS directly and urging them to expedite a science based recovery plan.

Thank you for giving endangered lobos a voice!