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In the News: $1 million hunter access fee OK’d

Albuquerque Journal - Commission delays decision on Ladder Ranch permit appeal

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M1043 in 2009 at Ladder Ranch Wolf Management Facility
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Game Commission on Thursday approved paying $1 million next year to the State Land Office for hunter access to state trust lands but delayed until January a vote on a second contentious issue – holding Mexican wolves at Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch.

The commission, meeting in Roswell, voted 5-1 for the higher fee to allow hunters, anglers and trappers access to trust lands managed by the Land Office.

The agreement, which followed months of negotiation, also would expand the number of designated areas where hunters can camp. And the Land Office agreed to ensure that critical access points to hunting lands are kept open and marked with signs.


The Land Office oversees 9 million surface acres – of which about 8 million acres are suitable for hunting – and 13 million subsurface acres. The revenue goes to schools, universities, hospitals and other public institutions.

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation called the $1 million fee “outrageous.”

Federation President John Crenshaw said a $600,000 fee “would have been more than sufficient, but tolerable.”

He said Dunn’s insistence on $1 million put the Game Commission and the Department of Game and Fish, which pays the fee, in a tough position: “either pay the exorbitant fee or shut 7,000 or 8,000 hunters out of millions of acres of public trust lands.”


The Game Commission is expected to rule at its Jan. 14 meeting in Santa Fe whether to reverse its denial of a permit allowing Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch to hold endangered Mexican wolves.

The Ladder Ranch appealed after the commission in May recommended the department revoke a permit that had been in place for 17 years.

The Sierra County ranch is a stopover for wolves scheduled to be released into the wild by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of its program to recover the species in its historic habitat of New Mexico and Arizona. It also receives wolves removed from the wild for nuisance behavior, such as preying on cattle.

“I appreciate their deliberate approach,” said Mike Phillips, director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund. “They now have until January to study the issue in detail.”

“It just seems like there is more and more delay and another generation is going to be born inbred in a few months,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The poor genetics of the wild population of wolves is an obstacle to the species’ long-term survival, Robinson said. The wolf recovery program began in the 1980s when just seven of the animals remained. They have been bred to improve their genetic diversity, but few releases of captive wolves in recent years means the wild population is less genetically healthy than the captive one.

The commission renewed a two-year permit for another Turner property, the Vermejo Ranch in northern New Mexico, which is engaged in recovering the endangered black-footed ferret.

This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal on November 20, 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.  

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.

Submit your letter to the Albuquerque Journal here.

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 the Ladder Ranch permit will only further complicate efforts to recover these rare wolves.
  • The actions of Governor Martinez’s Game Commission to prevent the recovery of Mexican gray wolves are irresponsible and violate the public trust.
  • The wild population of Mexican wolves suffers from declining genetic health, resulting from too many removals and too few releases from the captive breeding population. These endangered wolves can't wait - more wolves must be released into the wild as soon as possible. 
  • Ladder Ranch has been an important partner in the Mexican wolf reintroduction since 1997. Its valuable participation in this program should not be ended to serve a narrow political agenda.
  • 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.

Letter Writing Tips


Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing this excellent guest column and make sure to reference it in your letter.
  • 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.
Thank you for speaking out for lobos!


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