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Press Release: Conservationists condemn New Mexico officials for trying to stop releases of endangered Mexican wolves

The Southwest Environmental Center - May 13, 2016

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For immediate release  
May 13, 2016

Press Contact: Kevin Bixby
(575) 522-5552 (575) 649-7260


Conservationists condemn New Mexico officials for trying to stop releases of endangered Mexican wolves




The Southwest Environmental Center blasted the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) for trying to block releases of endangered Mexican wolves into the state. NMDGF announced today that it was seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from releasing more wolves.


“We fully support federal officials for doing what is needed and legally required under federal law to recover the highly endangered Mexican wolf, despite the regrettable attempts by New Mexico to put roadblocks in their way for purely political reasons,” said Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center. “It seems pretty clear that NMDGF’s actions are a delaying tactic, and that state officials are trying to run out the clock on Mexican wolf recovery.”


Bixby noted that New Mexico officials under Governor Susana Martinez’ administration have consistently opposed Mexican wolf recovery. The state withdrew from participating as a partner in the recovery program in 2011 shortly after Martinez was elected. NMDGF and the NM Game Commission—whose seven members were appointed by Martinez—then abruptly denied permits that had routinely been issued in the past to FWS and Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch to import and release wolves in the state.


More recently, Martinez joined neighboring states’ governors in sending a letter to federal officials stating their opposition to allowing Mexican wolves to expand into areas that biologists say are essential to their recovery.


Bixby also noted that Mexican wolves are protected as a state endangered species under the New Mexico Wildlife Conservation Act (WCA). “Rather than wasting tax dollars trying to prevent federal officials from doing the right thing, NMDGF should do ITS job and get busy helping to restore wolves, as it is required to do under state law,” he said. The WCA requires that NMDGF develop recovery plans for species listed as threatened or endangered under the act, something the department has never done for Mexican wolves.


Biologists say that releases of more wolves into the wild from the captive population is the only way to reverse a decline in the genetic health of the wild Mexican wolf population. They say releases are urgently needed to restore genetic variation and prevent Mexican wolves from going extinct in the wild. The window for making these releases to carry out a “genetic rescue” of Mexican wolves is limited. The FWS recently placed two captive-born wolf pups, selected for their genetic makeup, with a wild litter in the Gila National Forest in a process known as cross-fostering.


NMDGF argues that FWS needs to finish revising its Mexican wolf recovery plan before going forward with releases, which FWS has committed to do by the end of 2017 as part of a court settlement. NMDGF is being disingenuous when it says that a recovery plan needs to be completed before more releases can take place. Recovery planning is important, but not the highest priority.


“It’s like saying you need to figure out how many gallons of water are needed to put out a fire before attempting to put it out,” said Bixby. “The decline in genetic health of wild Mexican wolves is the fire we need to put out—right now--and releasing more wolves is the only way to do it.”


With only about 97 Mexican wolves in the wild of NM and Arizona, and less than 25 in Mexico, the “lobo” is one of the most endangered canids on the planet.


The Southwest Environmental Center works to protect and restore wildlife and their habitats in the Southwest.


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Sign The Southwest Environmental Center’s petition to USFWS Director Dan Ashe and Southwest Regional Director, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle to show your support of Mexican gray wolves.

Personalize your message by including some of the these talking points in the comment section of the petition:

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a legal and moral obligation to follow the best available science and do what is needed to recover endangered Mexican gray wolves in spite of politically motivated state opposition.
  • 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.
  • In a 2013 poll of registered voters, 87% of New Mexicans agreed that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.”  80% of New Mexicans agreed that “the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”  In thinking about wolf reintroduction, 73% of New Mexicans supported restoring wolves to the Grand Canyon region and northern New Mexico.
  • At last official count, only 97 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world. The wild population declined 12% since last year’s count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to release only one family in 2016 is anemic, not aggressive.
  • The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to release only one new family from the hundreds of wolves in captive breeding programs is entirely inadequate to the need for genetic rescue. At least five new families should be released this year. The Service’s plan is actually passive-aggressive, pretending to help the wolves but again giving in to the states.
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DO MORE FOR WOLVES

Tell US Fish and Wildlife Service not to let anti-wolf state officials obstruct Mexican wolf recovery.

Please email a letter directly to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle.

A sample message is below-remember that it will be most effective written in your own words, from your own experience.

Dear Director Ashe,

Mexican gray wolves are important to me and the majority of voters, and their recovery can help restore ecological health to our wildlands. Only four wolves have been released into the wild since 2009 and this year, the wild population declined for the first time in six years, from 110 wolves last year to only 97.
The longer the wild population goes without new releases, the worse the problems will become, requiring even more wolf releases in the future.

Instead of allowing political interference by the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, the US Fish and Wildlife Service must expedite the release of adults and families of wolves from captivity and must move forward with  the draft recovery plan based on the work of the science planning subgroup.

Obstruction by anti-wolf special interests and politics has kept this small population of unique and critically endangered wolves at the brink of extinction for too long and can no longer be allowed to do so.  Development of a new recovery plan and expedited releases that will together address decreased genetic health and ensure long-term resiliency in Mexican wolf populations must move forward without delay or political interference.


Sincerely,

[Your name and address]


You can make your letter more compelling by talking about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you.  If you’re a camper or hiker wanting to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.

Please email a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle.

Thank you for adding your voice on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves.