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In the News: Mexican wolf may lose protected status

Albuquerque Journal, 6/27/15. Letters to the editor needed!

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By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer - Las Cruces Bureau

A bill introduced in Congress this week would remove the Mexican gray wolf from the Endangered Species List and effectively end the federal program to reintroduce the wolf into the wild.

U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Paul Gosar of Arizona, both Republicans, introduced the “Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act” on Thursday.

The bill, HR 2910, would remove federal protection for the Mexican gray wolf and nullify the latest rule governing how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the wolf’s reintroduction to its historic habitat in New Mexico and Arizona. That rule broadly expanded the area where wolves can be reintroduced to most of southern New Mexico between I-40 and the Mexican border.

“The FWS has never really explained how they are going to get (the Mexican gray wolf) to delisting,” Pearce said, referring to a decades-old recovery plan that has not been updated by the FWS despite three attempts to do so.

Pearce said the federal wolf reintroduction program “would be replaced by the state.” New Mexico would assume management of the species, he said.

“I don’t think there is any attempt here that the wolf go extinct,” he said. “The numbers are shown to be increasing. They just don’t have a process to take it out of the recovery program. It’s a big economic problem. It’s a safety problem. It’s going to become a bigger problem now that they’ve expanded the area.”

FWS spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency does not comment on pending legislation unless asked to testify before Congress.

Endorsed by farm and ranching groups that have long opposed the reintroduction of a top predator onto public lands, the bill is vehemently opposed by wolf advocates.

“Ideally, we’d like to see the program go away,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association in Albuquerque. “We believe it is a failed experiment.”

After listing them under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began breeding Mexican gray wolves in captivity from the last seven animals in the species known to exist. In 1998, the FWS began releasing wolves into the wild in limited numbers.

The wild population has grown to more than 100 animals in New Mexico and Arizona, according to the latest FWS wolf census; about 250 remain in captivity.

“This is a retrograde bill that seeks to keep the Mexican wolf on the brink of extinction forever,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Robinson and other wolf advocates have also been pressing the FWS to develop a modern recovery plan for the species, but they don’t support ending the federal reintroduction program altogether, as HR 2910 would do.

Congress has stripped a wolf species of federal protection before. Tacked as a rider onto a bill funding the government in 2011, Congress removed the northern Rockies gray wolf from the Endangered Species List and ended federal management of the species in several Northwestern states.

“When they did that, there were thousands of gray wolves in the Rockies,” said Eva Sargent of Defenders of Wildlife. “Anyone who thinks it’s legit to delist a species when there are 109 wolves in the wild, that doesn’t make sense. That’s a vendetta.”

The official FWS Mexican wolf recovery plan dates to 1982 and sets a goal of 100 wolves in the wild, with the caveat that that number wouldn’t represent full recovery of the species. The current management rule aims for 350 wolves in the wild.

This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.
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PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR CALLING THIS BILL OUT FOR WHAT IT IS – A DEATH SENTENCE FOR ENDANGERED MEXICAN GRAY WOLVES.

Letters to the editor are powerful tools read by the public and policy makers. Letters urging continued protection for lobos can help influence members of congress to oppose this extinction bill.

Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don't try to include all of the points below. Your letter will be effective if you keep it brief and focus on a few key points.

Talking points:

With this bill, Congressmen Pearce and Gosar have introduced a death sentence for the Mexican gray wolf.

  • Their bill (HR2910) would remove Endangered Species Act protections for lobos, the most endangered population of wolves in the country.
  • There are only 109 Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico where thousands once roamed, not because of any failure of the wolves, but because a government extermination campaign almost wiped them out. Only 7 Mexican wolves could be found by the time they received Endangered Species Act protections. Now Gosar and Pearce have made it their mission to drive our native wolves back to extinction.
  • The science is clear that the Mexican gray wolf is far from recovery and must remain protected under the Endangered Species Act – with such low numbers, losing ESA protections would lead to extinction of the wild lobo.

The states of Arizona and New Mexico are hostile to Mexican wolf recovery and cannot be trusted with the future of these highly endangered animals.
  • During the period from 2003 to 2009, when the Mexican wolf reintroduction program was controlled by a commission led by Arizona Game and Fish, the wild population declined from 55 wolves to only 42 wolves and 2 breeding pairs in the wild. It was only after the US Fish and Wildlife Service resumed control of the program that the population numbers began to rise.
  • Under AZ Game and Fish Department’s management, many individual wolves and even whole families of wolves were routinely killed and removed over livestock conflicts, with no regard for their genetic value, under standard operating procedure 13. Arizona Game and Fish has been very clear that it will bring back policies like these and further loosen restrictions on killing endangered wolves.
  • Last month, in a petty political move to make recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves more difficult, the anti-carnivore New Mexico Game Commission denied, for the first time in 17 years, the permit to allow Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch to continue assisting with Mexican wolf recovery.
The recovery of the lobo has strong public support in Arizona and New Mexico and those who represent us in Congress should vigorously oppose Gosar's and Pearce’s extinction legislation.
  • Public polling continues to show overwhelming support for wolf recovery in Arizona and New Mexico.
  • In a 2008 poll of registered voters, 77 % of Arizonans and 69% of New Mexicans supported “the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into these public lands in Arizona and New Mexico.”
  • In a 2013 poll of registered voters, 87% of both Arizonans and New Mexicans agreed that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.”  83% of Arizonans and 80% of New Mexicans agreed that “the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.” 

Mexican gray wolves pose virtually no threat to human beings. This bill is based on fear mongering to serve a dark political agenda.

  • Incidents of wolves harming people are incredibly rare. Wolves generally avoid people, and in almost all cases people have nothing to fear from wolves in the wild.
  • The fact remains that chances of a dangerous encounter with large carnivores in the wild are remarkably slim compared to the risks associated with simply driving our cars or associating with domestic animals, something most of us do repeatedly on a daily basis. Not a single person has been killed by a Mexican gray wolf – in comparison, each year on average in the U.S., 241 people are killed by tractors, 53 by bees, 39 by lightning, 31 by dog bites and even 22 by cows!

Incidents of Mexican gray wolves predation on livestock have been greatly exaggerated
With this bill, Pearce and Gosar reveal a shocking willingness to sacrifice one of God’s creations and the greater good for a dirty political agenda.
  • Gosar and Pearce introduced their bill to drive the Mexican gray wolf to extinction just one week after Pope Francis issued his encyclical that included these words: “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right."
  • Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.  Science has repeatedly demonstrated that wolves are keystone carnivores who help to keep wildlife like elk and deer healthy and bring balance to the lands they inhabit.
  • Mexican gray wolves are beautiful, intelligent, family-oriented animals with emotions who were persecuted and nearly exterminated by the government. Elected officials and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have a moral responsibility to do all in their power to avoid the extinction of these important animals.
  • What would Noah do? Throwing these wolves off the Endangered Species list is like Noah throwing animals off the ark. It is impossible to support this legislation in good conscience.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing the article.
  • 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 from the article, 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 150-200 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.”
  • Urge your fellow citizens to urge their representatives in Congress to oppose this bill.
  • 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.

You can also submit letters to these papers, which published similar articles:
PLEASE ALSO CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES IN CONGRESS  and urge them not to cosponsor or vote for this bill or any similar bills or riders.

Contact info for your reps is available at this link just by clicking on your state: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

When you call, you can simply say something like:

As a constituent, I urge Representative X to oppose the "Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act" and any other legislation or riders that seek to undermine wolf recovery or the Endangered Species Act. Only about 109 Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild in the United States, making them highly endangered. I want my representative X to work for the greater protection of these wolves and to oppose efforts to push them closer to extinction.

Please be polite and thank whoever answers the phone.

Thank you for acting to prevent the extinction of our native Mexican gray wolves!
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