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In the News: New Mexico wildlife panel denies federal wolf permit appeal

Arizona Daily Sun, 9/29/15 – Letters to the editor needed

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A showdown over the Mexican gray wolf left the federal government vowing Tuesday to move ahead with plans to recover the endangered species despite the refusal of state wildlife officials to issue permits allowing for the release of wolves in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Game Commission denied an appeal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during a packed meeting in Albuquerque.

The move prompted a chorus of boos from the dozens of people in the audience who were holding signs that read "More wolves, less politics." No public comment on the matter was allowed.

Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service said they were disappointed with the outcome given that delaying releases could compromise the genetics of the wild population in New Mexico and Arizona.

Sherry Barrett, coordinator of the Mexican wolf recovery program, did not address accusations that politics played a role in the state's decision but said her agency has a duty under federal law to help the species.

"Our goal is recovery," she said after the meeting. "We still need to move forward with releases of wolves to address the genetic health of the population."

The Fish and Wildlife Service has a policy of consulting with states and complying with permit requirements except in instances where the U.S. Interior Department secretary determines that doing so would compromise the agency's ability to meet its responsibilities.

The agency initially sought permits to release a pair of wolves and their pups onto federal land in New Mexico and to allow for up to 10 captive pups to be raised by foster wolves in the wild.

The requests were denied in June by state Game and Fish Director Alexa Sandoval, who said federal officials did not provide enough information for her to determine if wolf releases would conflict with other state conservation efforts.

The Fish and Wildlife Service argued Sandoval's decision was arbitrary and not based on law or regulation. The agency pointed out in a lengthy filing that the director never cited any statutes, regulations or policies regarding conservation management to show there would be a conflict.

The agency also dismissed criticisms that it lacked an updated recovery plan, saying a recently adopted rule for managing the experimental population spells out population objectives and weighs the effects of more wolves on elk, deer and other wildlife in an expanded recovery area.

Game Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan said the commission wasn't deciding the value of the wolf program or the validity of federal policies, only whether the game director made a "reasonable and rational" decision in denying the permits.

There are at least 109 wolves roaming parts of New Mexico and Arizona. Federal officials hope to eventually triple that number and curb the effects of inbreeding.

Barrett said the goal is to eventually remove the wolves from the endangered species list and return the predators to state control. She called it a recoverable species.

"In the case of the Mexican wolf, it was eradicated from the wild as a result of intolerance," she told commissioners. "The greatest impediment right now to its recovery is social intolerance. Those are things we can work together to overcome."

A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Mexican wolf was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976.

Reintroduction started in 1998, but the effort has been hampered over the years by politics, illegal killings and other factors. Disputes over the program's management have spurred numerous legal actions by environmentalists who want more wolves released and by ranchers concerned about their livelihoods and safety in rural communities.

This article was published in the Arizona Daily Sun.

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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:

  • 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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority and the responsibility to do what is needed to recover these highly endangered wolves. The Service can, and should, override the state’s wrong-minded actions and release wolves to boost the wild population’s genetic health as soon as possible.
  • It is high time that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe stop trying to appease state agencies that are hostile to wolves and other wildlife and enforced the Endangered Species Act.
  • Mexican gray wolves are beautiful, intelligent animals that belong in the Southwest.
  • The actions of Governor Martinez’s Game Commission to prevent the recovery of Mexican gray wolves are irresponsible and violate the public trust.
  • 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. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should move forward with releases of adult wolves and families and should establish two new Mexican wolf populations north of I-40, as scientists have urged.

LETTER WRITING TIPS

Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for this article and make sure to reference it 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.

WHERE TO SUBMIT YOUR LETTER:

Articles on the same topic appeared in multiple newspapers.  You can submit letters to all of these:

Arizona Daily Sun New Mexico wildlife panel denies federal wolf permit appeal
Submit your letter to the Arizona Daily Sun here.

Submit your letter to the Tucson Daily Star here.

Albuquerque Journal  New Mexico Game Commission rejects wolf release
Submit your letter to the ABQ Journal here.

Santa Fe Reporter Still Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf
Submit your letter to the Santa Fe Reporter here

Santa Fe New Mexican Game Commission denies Mexican wolf release
Submit your letter to the Santa Fe New Mexican here

Las Cruces Sun-News NM panel denies federal wolf permit appeal
Submit your letter to the Las Cruces Sun-News here

The Taos News Game Commission won’t overturn rejection of feds’ permits for Mexican wolf releases
Submit your letter to The Taos News here

Farmington Daily Times Wildlife panel denies federal permit appeal
Submit your letter to the Farmington Daily Times here

Submit your letter to the Houston Chronicle here.

San Antonio Express News New Mexico wildlife panel denies federal wolf permit appeal
Submit your letter to the San Antonio Express News here.

Want to do more for endangered Mexican wolves?

Please contact Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and tell them to override the state's decision. 

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 deferrring to the states, the Service should do its job and expedite the release of many more wolves into the wild.

Sample messages:

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell:

I am calling to urge the Secretary to exercise her federal authority over the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction and to stop allowing state game agencies in New Mexico and Arizona to undermine wolf recovery. The Department 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 just relying on risky cross-fostering, and do not give 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 Secretary Jewell: Phone: (202) 208-7351. Emails can be sent to feedback@ios.doi.gov

If you email, you can copy the message to the Secretary above to the email address for Director Dan Ashe below.

US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe

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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