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Editorial: Wolf Numbers Gain Some Ground

Arizona Republic, February 11, 2012 (posted 02/19/12)

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Success. Howling good success.

The latest figures show the population of endangered Mexican wolves has increased by eight animals, bringing the total counted to 58. There could be others.

Sure, that is far fewer than were anticipated to be on the ground at this point in the recovery effort. And, yes, there have been too many wolves removed -- some lethally -- from the wildlands in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. And, yes again, there continues to be controversy.

Environmentalists want new wolves added to the program from captive populations. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission wants a new recovery plan to be completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before additional wolves are reintroduced.

The commission agreed only to new releases to replace any wolves that are lost to poaching or from other causes. Arizona is a partner with U.S. Fish and Wildlife on the wolf-recovery project.

Fish and Wildlife says that the new recovery plan could take two years to finish and that new releases are important to enhance genetic diversity. The federal agency will "coordinate closely with our partners this year for these releases," Fish and Wildlife's Charna Lefton said by e-mail.

In addition, some ranchers also remain uncomfortable with the program, though continued efforts are being made to satisfy their concerns through compensation and other means.

But set the controversy aside. Take a moment to enjoy the happy news. The wolf numbers are increasing despite the odds. One pack's breeding female was killed by lightning, but another female in the pack successfully raised her pups, says Jim Paxon of Game and Fish. Last year's Wallow Fire burned through the denning areas of three packs. But the population went up.

More than 90 percent of the wolves on the ground today were born in the wild.

This is wonderful news for Arizonans who have long supported the effort to reintroduce this top predator to the ecosystem.

*****

Read the full article here.


PLEASE WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR TODAY! This increase is wonderful news, but these numbers are still perilously low.

SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC, thanking them for this article.  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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org:

* Start by thanking paper for their coverage of this important issue-this makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.

* Stress that the welcome increase in numbers and breeding pairs, in spite of the deaths of nine wolves and more than half the pups born last year, shows that the wolves are amazingly resilient and able to thrive in the wild. They’ve done their part to succeed in the wild in the face of political opposition, killings, and removals; Director Tuggle needs to make sure the Fish and Wildlife Service does its part.

* Point out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to keep more wolves in the wild by emphasizing tactics that help ranching and wolves coexist instead of removing wolves is starting to pay off.

* Emphasize that when packs are more stable they’re able to be better parents, and pups have a better chance at reaching adulthood and reproducing themselves.

* Point out that, while this is a positive step forward, this number is still dangerously low; Director Tuggle must keep his promise to release more wolves into the wild.

* Encourage the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to use all the means available to them to expedite more releases of captive wolves into the wild. The agency has been sitting on an Environmental Assessment that can end the ridiculous rule prohibiting new releases into New Mexico and letting wolves eligible for release into both Arizona and New Mexico sit in captivity. The stalling has to stop.

* Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health- A population of 58 wolves is still extremely small and at risk from threats such as disease, inbreeding, or catastrophic events like the Wallow Fire, which burned through Mexican wolf habitat last year.

* Explain that there are wolves in captivity ready to be released and wolves in the wild that do not have mates; these wolves need more releases to form new breeding pairs and families.

* Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity 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.

* Reiterate the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife. Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.

* Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.

* Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.

You can submit your letters to other regional papers here:

ARIZONA NEWSPAPERS:

* The Arizona Republic - 200 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Arizona Daily Star - 150 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Arizona Daily Sun - 250 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* The White Mountain Independent – 300 word limit.  Submit your letter here.


NEW MEXICO NEWSPAPERS:

* Santa Fe New Mexican - 150 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Las Cruces Sun-News - 300 word limit.  Submit your letter here.

* Alamogordo News - Submit your letter here.


Thank you for taking the time to submit a letter. The many letters to the editor expressing support for Mexican gray wolves published in the last year have made a real difference!

Please send any letters you submit to us info@mexicanwolves.org so that we can track what's being published.

Photo courtesy of Amber Legras