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Op-ed: What if there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona?

Paul Gosar, Defenders of Wildlife debate the impact of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona. AZ Republic, 7/4/15. LETTERS NEEDED

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What would happen if there were no Mexican grey wolves in Arizona? The Arizona Republic asked Representative Paul Gosar, who has introduced a bill to strip Mexican gray wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections, and Eva Sargent, Defenders of Wildlife’s Southwest program director, to weigh in on this question. Their answers are below, followed by information about how you can weigh in for Mexican gray wolves with a letter to the editor.
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IT WOULDN'T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE-Representative Paul Gosar

Arizona would be identical to Texas in that respect and the Mexican wolf population would more closely resemble its historic range (90 percent of the Mexican wolf's original habitat is in Mexico).

However, I am not advocating for Mexican gray wolf eradication. I simply want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to leave species conservation efforts to the states, to comply with federal law, and to stop implementing a flawed experimental program that poses a serious threat to Arizona ranchers, citizens and economies.

Mexican wolves have repeatedly stalked citizens, devastated big game herds and killed livestock. In Catron County, N.M., the wolf's presence has resulted in a $5 million economic hit and "1,172 calves lost annually," according to the Southwest Center for Resource Analysis.

In January, Fish and Wildlife implemented new regulations that dramatically expanded the area Mexican wolves can roam and designated the wolf as an endangered subspecies. The agency acknowledged its failure to secure appropriations prior to implementing the new regs, in violation of federal law.

The Mexican wolf has lingered on the Endangered Species list for nearly 40 years. During that time, Fish and Wildlife has failed to work with local stakeholders and has been using an illegal recovery program, as it is not based on the best available science and fails to establish a recovery goal. Arizona recently sued as a result.

The agency has acknowledged the recovery plan violates federal law and that the new regulations will not result in a de-listing. In the U.S., the Mexican wolf population now exceeds the primary goal of 100 wolves, and there are another 250 in captivity. The wolf is no longer in danger of extinction.

The bipartisan Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act rejects the new January mandates as Arizonans deserve a viable solution that adequately protects local communities.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar is a Republican [mis]representing Arizona.
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IT WOULD BE A TRAGEDY -
Defenders of Wildlife Southwest program director Eva Sargent

If there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona, this rarest gray wolf would be on a direct path to extinction.

Essentially eradicated from the southwestern United States by the 1930s, the Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. There are fewer than 120 wild Mexican gray wolves in the entire world: 109 in Arizona and New Mexico and a handful in Mexico.

Why does that matter? Lobos hold profound cultural significance in our region, and are important apex predators that contribute to the environmental health of the areas they inhabit. Sadly, despite the work that has been done to recover them, the Mexican gray wolf is still noticeably rare on our beautiful landscape in Arizona. The truth is, without lobos, Arizona would not be safer or more productive, but it would be lacking an iconic part of our heritage.

No one has ever been killed by a Mexican gray wolf, and in Arizona, wolves account for less than 1 percent of total cattle and calf losses. On the other hand, 87 percent of voters polled in Arizona agree that wolves are a "vital part of America's wilderness and natural heritage," and 83 percent of Arizonans agree that "the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction."

To lose the lobo would be a tragedy of our lifetime.

Eva Sargent is Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

These Op-eds were published together in the Arizona Republic.

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PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR CALLING GOSAR'S 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. Gosar's 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!

Gosar's claims about Mexican gray wolf predation on livestock are irresponsibly 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.

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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