Wildlife advocates chided state government leaders in Salt Lake City on Thursday for trying to keep land out of a potential recovery zone for Mexican gray wolves, an endangered species.
Organizations advocating for the wolves also held news conferences and rallies in the capital cities of Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. They say governors are spreading misinformation in a recent letter to the federal government.
About 25 supporters showed up in Salt Lake City, holding signs that read, "Utah Wants Wolves" and "Utah Needs Wolves."
Allison Jones, director of the Wild Utah Project, said governors should have consulted with more legal experts and scientists before sending a joint letter in which they claimed science does not show the animals have lived north of Interstate 40. That highway runs through New Mexico and Arizona.
"The debate when it comes to wolves is too often underlain with myth and folklore, none of which has been substantiated by the science," Jones said.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert stood behind the letter.
"It would be irresponsible for the federal government to introduce a species of wolf to a region, such as Utah, where it has not historically lived," Herbert's spokesman Jon Cox said in a statement. "Such an action could significantly harm the state's wildlife, quality of life and economy."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife last year decided to list the Mexican wolf, a smaller subspecies of the gray wolf, as endangered. Federal wildlife officials estimate there are 110 Mexican wolves in the wild, many straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border.
A proposed recovery plan from federal officials for the animal also known as "lobo" is likely a couple of years away, said Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Scientists, state officials and Mexican government representatives recently held a meeting in Arizona to discuss the issue. Two more meetings are planned for this year, including one in Mexico City.
The Utah Wildlife Board recently sent a letter echoing many of the same points the governors made. The board said trying to lure the wolves to Utah would harm the species because the animals would hybridize with northern gray wolves.
Board members said the state could lose millions of dollars that come from hunting permits because the wolves would prey on deer, elk and moose in some of the state's finest hunting terrain.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission this week passed a resolution opposing any possible move by the federal government to introduce Mexican gray wolves to the state, arguing the animals aren't native to the state and would threaten livestock and big game animals.
Sheehan said recovery of the Mexican gray wolf should focus on the animal's natural and historic lands in Mexico, allowing it to eat what it has for generations and live in habitat it's familiar with.
"I don't fault people for wanting to have wolves in Utah: It is a historic species in the West," Sheehan said. "But that doesn't mean we change the real science out there on the Mexican wolf to fabricate ways for how and why they should live here or used to live here."
Ty Markham of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance pointed to theology as justification for opening southern Utah lands for Mexican gray wolf recovery. Her group believes the wolves play a key part in the "divine web of life" that needs to be protected for future generations.
Jones said arguing over the precise historical habitat of the animal should take a back seat to how and where the species can best recover in today's world.
Please write a letter to the editor in support of
bringing wolves back to Utah.
The recent Mexican gray wolf rallies in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico
and Utah have generated a flurry of media and press.
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. Your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few of the talking points below rather than trying to include them all.
This story was covered by several news sources throughout the region. Write one letter and send it to all of the following publishers. You can use the same letter for all news outlets, just slightly revise your letter for each publication. (For example, change the opening line… E.g. “Thanks to The Salt Lake Tribune for your article”, or “Thanks to the Deseret News for your article…”)
Submit your Letter to the Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune HERE.
Submit your Letter to the Editor HERE.
Submit your Letter to the Editor HERE.
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.
Submit your letter to the Editor HERE.
- For over 10,000 years, grey wolves lived throughout Utah and Colorado and played an important role in shaping the landscape and maintaining balance in nature. Under state management, most subspecies of wolves were hunted and trapped to extinction. The highly endangered Mexican grey wolf is the most appropriate surviving subspecies for recovery in Utah and Colorado, and they cannot recover without help from all four states.
- The states are using out of date information – newer studies support a more northward range for Mexican gray wolves historically. Genetic research has found evidence of Mexican wolf genetic markers in Utah and Colorado, and as far north as Nebraska.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service should stop letting anti-wolf state officials obstruct wolf recovery. The last effort to create a Mexican wolf recovery plan stalled precisely because the states were given opportunities to weigh in before the work of the scientific experts was released for public comment. The most recent recovery planning process, which began in 2011, ended amidst allegations of political interference by these same states with the science.
- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a scientific integrity complaint in 2012 saying that US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed politics to interfere with the Mexican wolf recovery planning process by encouraging scientists to lower or forgo the numeric target for recovery, responding to state demands to exclude Utah, Colorado, and Northern Arizona from suitable habitat, and attempting to prevent the science subgroup from issuing final Mexican wolf recovery criteria.
- It’s hypocritical for the governors to argue that Mexican wolves should be excluded based on whether they are “native.” The state game agencies have no problem moving game species and fish into places they never lived simply for the convenience of hunters and fishermen.
- The Endangered Species Act does not require recovery to occur within species’ historic range.
- Recovery of Mexican gray wolves cannot occur wholly in Mexico. There are no large blocks of public lands, there is not a great deal of suitable habitat and prey, and there may not be enough resources to do the job.
- We need wolves, be they Mexican gray wolves or northern wolves, to help repair western wildlands. Taking a lesson from Yellowstone and the important role of top predators in ecosystems, many of us would welcome lobos throughout the Southwest.
- States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens. State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore and preserve all forms of wildlife, including predators. Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
Letter Writing Tips
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for this article and make sure to reference the article 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.
WANT TO DO MORE FOR LOBOS?
You can also help by calling or emailing Governor Herbert. Tell him/his staff that as a Utah resident and wolf supporter, you are disappointed in his actions to obstruct wolf recovery. Ask him to respect the peer-reviewed research of the Mexican gray wolf science and planning subgroup and to allow wolves to return to Utah, for their own sake and for the sake of the lands they will help restore.
Messages to Interior Secretary Jewell and USFWS Director Dan Ashe will make a difference as well, since they have authority over the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Act here.
Thank you for speaking out for lobos!
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