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Op-Ed: Time to bring NM’s wildlife management into 21st century

Albuquerque Journal 8/7/15  - SPEAK OUT FOR MEXICAN WOLVES!

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Wesley Leonard / Chairman, Bold Visions Conservation

New Mexico is fortunate to be the home of numerous and diverse wildlife species. The state agency tasked with protecting New Mexico’s wildlife, the N.M. Game and Fish department, is, however, focused on making sure that a few selected game species are available for hunters.

This emphasis on elk and deer is at the expense of other species, especially apex predators, such as bears, mountain lions and wolves.

This is driven in part by the department being funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses rather than from the state’s general fund.

Only 4 percent of New Mexicans are hunters. Accordingly, the other 96 percent have little say in department policies.

An example of this lack of input is that the department encourages children to take up trapping, which often results in animals, some domestic, suffering in steel leg traps for days.

The department also does not oppose animal killing contests, but does oppose the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf. Numerous polls have shown overwhelming support by New Mexicans for wolf reintroduction and against trapping.

The department is overseen by a seven-member politically appointed commission with no expertise in scientific wildlife management. All members are hunters, and most have ties to ranching, and oil and gas corporations, as well as extreme right wing organizations.

The previous chairman, rancher Scott Bidegain, was charged with illegal hunting and forced to resign. He and other commissioners have also been involved in animal killing contests.

All this points to a commission and department that are completely out of touch with the values of most New Mexicans!

So what can be done to bring wildlife management into the 21st century? First, the manner in which the department is funded must change. Revenue from the sale of licenses should go into the general fund and department funding should become a part of the regular budget process.

To increase revenue, an outdoor recreation fee on the sale of outdoor gear and equipment should be established by the Legislature. This would help put the interests of the 96 percent of New Mexicans who do not hunt on par with the 4 percent who do.

Next, the makeup of the commission must be changed to reflect the values of all New Mexicans.

By law, the commission should be required to have members that represent conservation, non-game species, scientific wildlife management and the environment, as well as hunting and fishing.

Politics has no place in wildlife management.

Making these changes will not be easy. Nevertheless, now is the time to start the conversation on how best to bring wildlife management into the 21st century.

This Op-Ed was published in the Albuquerque Journal on August 7, 2015.

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Rally for endangered wolves at the
NM Game Commission meeting in Santa Fe on August 27th!

In the past few months, the NM Game Commission has repeatedly sought to obstruct Mexican gray wolf recovery by denying permits to Ladder Ranch and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Appeals of these bad decisions are on the agenda for the August 27, 2015 Commission meeting. The commission will also vote on their proposals to allow cougar trapping and to expand bear hunting in NM. This Commission is clearly out of touch with the majority of New Mexicans, who want wolves recovered.

NM Game Commission Meeting and Rally
Santa Fe Community College
Jemez Room
6401 Richards Ave.
Santa Fe New Mexico
Click here for map
The rally is at 8 am
The Game Commission meeting begins at 8:30 a.m.

The bear and cougar rules and wolf agenda items are numbers 7-10

Please RSVP for the rally and/or meeting here .

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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 denying these permits are petty and violate the public trust. Governor Martinez needs to make this right by getting the Ladder ranch and USFWS permits granted.
  • For 17 years, Ladder Ranch has been an excellent partner in the effort to pull Mexican wolves back from the brink of extinction. US Fish and Wildlife Service must be able to release wolves into New Mexico to improve the dwindling genetic health of the wild population. New Mexico Game Commission has given no good reasons for denying the Ladder Ranch or USFWS permits because it has none-only a desire to block the recovery of these native wolves. These decisions should be reversed.
  • At last official count, only 110 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 and USFWS permits 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 a half of 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 guest column.
  • 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.


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

You can also sign a petition to the Governor here.

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