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In the News: Game Commission denies Mexican wolf release

Santa Fe New Mexican – September 30, 2015 – Your letters to the editor are needed

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ALBUQUERQUE — The federal government cannot release another dozen or so Mexican gray wolves into the wilds of southwestern New Mexico, the State Game Commission decided Tuesday during a raucous public meeting.

In a 7-0 vote, commissioners rejected the federal government’s appeal of a decision by state Game and Fish Department Director Alexandra Sandoval prohibiting the wolf reintroduction.

Spectators reacted with catcalls aimed at the commissioners. “No surprise! Shameful!” they said as the vote was announced.

In June, Sandoval rejected a federal permit for the Mexican wolf program because she said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lacked a detailed plan to release up to 10 captive Mexican wolves in the Gila National Forest, leaving her without enough information on what effects the predators would have on elk and deer populations. The federal agency disputes her characterization.

Small numbers of captive Mexican gray wolves have been placed in the wild since 1998. They are the most endangered subspecies of wolf, with a population of 109 in the wilderness of two states, New Mexico and Arizona.

Sherry Barrett, the Mexican wolf coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said her agency would continue with recovery efforts of the Mexican gray wolf despite the Game Commission’s decision. But she didn’t elaborate in an interview with The New Mexican on what that means or what specific actions could be taken.

Barrett told commissioners the population of wild Mexican gray wolves “may not be recoverable” if her agency is unable to reintroduce the animals as it planned.

She said lack of genetic diversity in the pool of wild wolves makes them vulnerable, but she predicted a 10 percent population increase annually if the recovery program proceeds. Barrett said genetics of the captive population are more diverse than those of wild wolves, which are more prone to inbreeding because their numbers are so small.

People are the reason the subspecies is in trouble, according to Barrett and others supporting the release of more Mexican gray wolves.

“It was eradicated from the wild as a result of intolerance from humans,” Barrett said.

Game Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan of Roswell said she and her colleagues could only overturn the director’s decision on the wolf permit if they found it arbitrary and capricious.

“We’re not here to make a value-based decision. We’re here to look at whether the director’s decision was reasonable or rational,” she said.

Someone in the audience shouted “scumbags” amid jeering when Ryan made a motion to affirm the director’s denial of the permit.

Paul Kienzle of Albuquerque, chairman of the commission, said he had concerns about wolves co-existing with people and livestock. He referenced one wolf that was shot and killed, saying “that was a problem animal that was ultimately put down.”

After the vote, opponents of the commission’s decision emptied the 143-capacity room at the Embassy Suites, tempers boiling. One woman loudly cursed the commissioners and called them “subsidized ranchers.”

She and other advocates of reintroducing the Mexican gray wolf have accused the commissioners, appointed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, of bowing to the interests of the agriculture industry. Ranchers say the predators threaten their livestock and their safety.

Michael Robinson, of the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group, said the U.S. government should simply proceed with its wolf recovery program in spite of the State Game Commission.

After the meeting, Lory Slade, who supports releasing more wolves into the wild, said she moved to the Las Cruces area to be close to the Mexican gray wolf.

“I just wish someone would listen to us,” she said.

This article was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.


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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:

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

Silver City Daily Press - Game Commission rejects wolves in Gila
Submit your letter to the Silver City Daily Press here.

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

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.

The White Mountain Independent - Local officials sound off on NM decision to stop further wolf releases
Submit your letter to The White Mountain Independedt 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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