Lovers of all things wild have the opportunity Saturday to be heard on the subject of wolves.
Loathed by settlers who moved west, the Mexican gray wolf and other wolf species were hunted to the point of extinction. Even against opposition, though, a concerted effort has been made across the United States, including in New Mexico, to ensure the survival of this fabled creature.
After decades of delay, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have put together a recovery plan for endangered wolves of the Southwest and northern Mexico — that’s the document on which members of the public are being invited to comment. The meeting begins at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Crowne Plaza in Albuquerque; if you want your comments in the record, submit them in writing. This is an opportunity to tell federal officials how to improve the draft.
Important in going forward is understanding that wolves need both genetic diversity and a wide area in which to roam if they are going to survive as a healthy species — the key word being “healthy.” The draft plan, unfortunately, limits wolves to south of Interstate 40 in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as the population over the border in Mexico. It does not provide for large enough numbers of wolves, either.
Considering wolves once roamed in Northern New Mexico and states north, that is too limited a range, especially if a border wall is built and stops the wolves from moving between countries. Establishing wolf populations in the Grand Canyon and in Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado would ensure a more robust recovery. Wolves must to be able to wander to increase their chances of diversifying their genetic material. As predators, they are needed in the ecosystem so that nature can remain in balance.
When it comes to numbers, this recovery plan is not ambitious enough. Scientists believe that the population in the wild needs to be about 750, while the Fish and Wildlife plan argues that about 320 wolves, able to survive in the wild for several years, would be an adequate number. The plan allows for 170 wolves in Mexico. Should those numbers be sustained, they would be enough for the species to be considered recovered, according to Fish and Wildlife.
Still, should those number be reached, that would be about three times the number of wolves currently in New Mexico and Arizona. That’s progress, but hardly enough to bring the wolf population back in robust fashion.
The plan leaves too much control in the timing and locations of wolf releases to state officials — and that’s not good enough, considering how many roadblocks both Arizona and New Mexico have placed in the way of wolf recovery over the years. Recovery goals based on science, with less wiggle room at the local level, are necessary. The recovery plan needs a way to ensure compliance with whatever plan emerges, in other words.
Re-establishing the wolf in the West is controversial, of course. The opinions of ranchers and other rural residents concerned about wolves attacking livestock need to be heard as part of the process. Judging from reactions at a recent Arizona hearing, those groups don’t like this plan much, either.
On Saturday, all sides can speak up so that a stronger recovery plan emerges.
Hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA. 22041-3803.
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 for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required, by law, to incorporate the best available science into its Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Unfortunately, they have scrapped this duty in order to attain the best political deal they could find. They have chosen to make hostile state agencies happy rather than uphold their duty to consider the best available science. The previous recovery planning science team clearly identified what these wolves need, yet those findings are being ignored.
• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to hand the management of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program to the states who have done everything in their power to sabotage the species’ recovery. Arizona game and fish ran the program for six years previously, and in that time they managed to reduce the number of wolves in the wild. The serious genetic problems the wild population is in is a direct result of the mismanagement by Arizona. If this plan is not dramatically changed, it will very likely drive the lobo to extinction.
• The Mexican gray wolf draft recovery plan includes reckless delisting criteria for the critically endangered wolf. The plan allows for delisting the wolf after twenty-two wolves released from captivity reach reproductive age. But just reaching reproductive age does not ensure their genes will be contributed to the wild population. We have seen that poaching is a major threat to individual wild wolves and if these wolves are killed before they breed, the species will still be removed from the endangered species list.
• Mexican gray wolves will need connectivity between wild populations in order to recover. Connectivity would be easy were they allowed to establish in the two additional suitable habitats in the U.S., the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to restrict the wolves to south of Interstate 40 and to establish a second population in Mexico. There is a barrier along large sections of the international border, talk of extending that barrier to an impenetrable wall, and the last wolf who crossed that border was removed from the wild.
• The federal agency charged with recovery of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf has decided to put the onus of recovery on Mexico, despite the fact that this could wipe the species out. Mexico does not have nearly as much public land for the wolf, they have very little enforcement to deal with poaching, and as species shift north in response to climate change Mexican habitat will become even less suitable for wolves.
Make sure you:
• Thank the paper for publishing the article
• 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 from the article, 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, under 350 words
• Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
• 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.
DO EVEN MORE FOR LOBOS!
Electronically: Go to www.regulations.gov and enter FWS–R2–ES–2017–0036
Hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Public Comments Processing
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803
The last Fish and Wildlife Service public meeting on the Recovery Plan is being held on July 22, 2017. Please plan to attend.
- July 22, 2-5 p.m. Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, 1901 University Boulevard NE,
Thank you for taking action for the Lobos!