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Op-ed: Show support for NM wildlife at rally on Tuesday

Albuquerque Journal, September 27, 2015 – Your Letters Are Needed

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Will the Game Commission do the right thing, or block the Endangered Species Act?

Mary Katherine Ray - Wildlife Chair, Rio Grande Chapter Of The Sierra Club

The New Mexico Game Commission is a seven-member board appointed by the governor. It has broad authority to enact wildlife policy and oversee New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish, which issues hunting licenses and enforces hunting regulations. There are very few requirements to serve on the Game Commission. There is no requirement to have a science or biology background.

All seven of the current Game commissioners appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez are hunters. Two are Safari Club members, just like the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion. Four are National Rifle Association members. Three have ties to agriculture and one of those is a board member of the Cattlegrowers Association. Six are male, one is female.

These seven hold in their hands the fate of all “protected” wildlife species in our state yet, in its current composition, the commission is as unbalanced as nature is without carnivores.

This commission voted last month to allow the trapping of cougars on over 70 percent of the land area in New Mexico and to expand trophy-hunting of bears across the state. Scientists tell us that wild carnivores like bears, cougars and wolves are crucial to the integrity of nature. Aldo Leopold also knew this when he saw the Green Fire go out in the eyes of a mortally wounded wolf. Does the Game Commission know this?

Already, there are not very many bears and cougars in the wild in New Mexico. New Mexico Game and Fish estimates fewer than 8,000 bears in the entire state and fewer cougars – 3,100 to 4,200. There may not even be that many.

Now the recovery process for endangered Mexican gray wolves is on the line.

Wolves were exterminated from New Mexico by hunting, trapping and poisoning. But they survived elsewhere and have been reintroduced into a small section of their native habitat in our state. Because only 110 exist anywhere in the wild, lobos fall under the jurisdiction of the Endangered Species Act. This landmark law is a modern-day Noah’s ark that ensures that humans, a species with the power to destroy everything, take care to protect wildlife.

Earlier this year, Gov. Martinez’s Game Commission gave itself the authority to deny permits involving wolf recovery. It has used this authority to deny renewal of the private Ladder Ranch’s permits to import and hold Mexican wolves awaiting release.

On Tuesday, the commission will consider the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s permit to release wolves into the wild in our state.

The wild wolf population is constrained by very limited genetics. Releasing more wolves injects much-needed genetic diversity. In the absence of these releases, the future of the species is once more cast into doubt.

Mexican wolves are protected by the state Wildlife Conservation Act, as well as the federal Endangered Species Act. Recovering endangered wolves is part of the mandate of the Game Commission.

New Mexicans have spoken about their support for conservation of carnivores. Thousands of comments opposing the goal of killing more bears and cougars, along with petition signatures supporting wolf recovery, hundreds of people attending recent commission meetings and polls showing 3-to-1 opposition to trapping have made that clear.

This is the Game commissioners’ chance to listen – to comply with the state Wildlife Conservation Act, to comply with the Endangered Species Act, to conserve a species important to New Mexico’s heritage and to make the scientifically sound decision that the majority of their constituents support.

The meeting is in Albuquerque, so you can be there to express your support for wolf recovery. The commission meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Embassy Suites on Woodward. Please join wildlife advocates beforehand for a rally in support of wolves and all our beleaguered wild carnivores at 8 a.m.

Our presence is our voice.

This Op-ed was published in the Albuquerque Journal on September 27, 2015.

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Please take a stand for Mexican wolf recovery with a letter to the editor!

The NM Game Commission is trying to halt the release of all Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico. We need to let the public know more about this outrageous action to sabotage lobo survival. Please take a stand now 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.

Talking Points

  • The actions of Governor Martinez’s Game Commission to thwart the recovery of Mexican gray wolves are childish and violate the public trust.
  • In recent polls, the great majority of New Mexicans support lobo recovery.
  • Folks should show up at the Commission meeting on the 29th and be heard – the wolves can’t speak so we must speak for them.
  • 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 release 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. 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 state is putting up roadblocks that could doom our lobos, but the feds are also dragging their feet on recovery.
  • Cross-fostering is a long shot that requires all sorts of factors to align perfectly.  Cross-fostering alone cannot come close to saving the wolves – more adult wolves must be released from captivity.
Letter Writing Tips

Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for this excellent article and make sure to reference the article in your LTE.
  • 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, no more than 200 words. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.
  • 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.
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Want to do more to help save Mexican 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 The Governor's office may try to tell you to contact the Commission. Please tell them politely, but firmly, that Governor Martinez is responsible for the actions of her Game Commission and your message is for her.

Email: http://www.governor.state.nm.us/Contact_the_Governor.aspx

You can also sign a petition to the Governor here.


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Don't Stop Now!

Please contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe as well.
The Mexican wolf recovery program is run by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service with federal authority from the Endangered Species Act. Even before Arizona and New Mexico decided to block releases of wolves into the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dragged its feet on releasing new wolves from captivity. Instead of deferring to the states, the Service should do its job and expedite the release of many more wolves into the wild.

Sample message:

I am calling to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to exercise its federal authority over the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction and stop allowing state game commissions in New Mexico and Arizona to undermine wolf recovery. The Service should be doing all in its power to ensure the recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves. Please expedite the release of adult wolves and wolf families to improve the wild population’s genetic health, rather than relying on risky cross-fostering, and stop giving in to state wildlife agencies made up of hostile special interests.

Calls are most effective.
Just tell the person who answers that you have a message for Director Ashe: 202-208-4717

Emails can be sent to dan_ashe@fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm

Thank you for speaking out for Lobos!
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