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Our View: Wolf recovery plan is biased - but you can help fix that

Editorial board, The Arizona Republic – THEY WANT YOUR LETTERS - August 11, 2017

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Editorial: Constructive public comment is essential to reshape a draft recovery plan for Mexican wolves.

There is no lack of heat over re-establishing the endangered Mexican wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.

So it is no surprise this summer’s draft plan for wolf recovery hit the pavement and started sizzling.

Environmentalists say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s draft plan is too generous to wolf opponents.

Some ranchers say they still don’t want the wolves around – under any circumstances.

You have a chance to have your say until Aug. 29, when the public comment period ends.

It’s important to make your feelings known because the success of this decades-long effort to re-establish these beautiful animals hangs on this plan.

The plan has its share of problems


This is the blueprint for recovery – and it’s got some fundamental problems.

First, let's get one thing straight: The reintroduction of Mexican wolves reflects the shared national goal of preserving biodiversity -- a goal enshrined in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

These are national values.

Yet the draft wolf recovery plan gives authority to Arizona and New Mexico to "determine the timing, location and circumstances of releases of wolves into the wild within their respective states."

Unless this wording is clarified, it has the potential to put releases – and the species’ survival – at risk.

Residents in Arizona and New Mexico should have a say, but certain local players – largely ranchers and hunters – have significant political clout and they have been vocal in opposition to wolves.

New Mexico has sued to stop wolf releases, and Arizona filed an amicus brief in that case.

States shouldn't have veto power

Without wolf releases, the recovery effort is doomed.

When asked why the federal government was essentially ceding its authority to the states on this issue, Maggie Dwire, assistant Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this is a draft plan that reflects Fish and Wildlife’s policy of treating states as “important partners.”

The final language can change, she said.

Final language should make it clear that the states can offer input, but do not have veto power over releases.

There are currently more wolves in captive-breeding programs in the United States and Mexico than there are in the wild. What’s more, those captive wolves have greater genetic diversity than the estimated 113 wolves roaming Arizona and New Mexico.

The recovery plan lists the lack of genetic diversity as a threat to recovery. Captive wolves are the solution.

The draft recovery plan sets criteria for down-listing Mexican wolves from endangered status that includes having an average of 320 wolves in the United States over four years, as well as a smaller population in Mexico.

If the U.S. population exceeds 380, the draft talks about employing “management actions” to decrease it.

We want to grow the population, right?

Why limit a population we’ve been working to restore? Because more wolves might strain “social tolerance in local communities or cause other management concerns such as unacceptable impacts to wild ungulates,” the draft says.

In other words, ranchers don't want to share the public land they lease, and hunters don't want competition for the elk and deer they hunt.

Giving deference to these concerns mirrors current policy.

Ranchers, who complain when wolves prey on cattle, can be reimbursed for cattle lost and can even apply for “payments for presence” simply because wolves are on public land they lease for grazing.

Meanwhile, if wolves are found to eat too much game, state wildlife agencies can press to have the lobos removed.

This existing bias in favor of local interests that use the public lands and resources for individual profit or recreation is at odds with the larger national goal of species preservation.

Public comments on the draft recovery plan can help shift policies in favor of the wolves. That's up to you. But do your homework.

Fish and Wildlife’s Dwire urges people to offer “helpful comments” and “specific reasons."

“Give us something to address,” she says, beyond “I hate wolves” or “I love wolves.”

We want to hear from you! Send us a letter to the editor to respond to this editorial.


This Editorial was published in the Arizona Republic.

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Show your support for Mexican wolves with a Letter to the Editor today!

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 200 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.

Submit your letter to the editor of the Arizona Republic.



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DO EVEN MORE FOR LOBOS!

Submit comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service before August 29


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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
Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803



Additional Documentation Referenced in Draft Plan:




5 peer reviews received on the above documents (Peer reviews are anonymous at this time but FWS will provide peer reviewers names and affiliations when the recovery plan and biological report have been finalized.)