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In the News: Public Is Behind Wolves; Will Government Get the Message?

Op-ed: Albuquerque Journal, April 15, 2012 (posted 4-17-12)

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By Billie Hughes / White Mountain Conservation League Board Member

Support for the reintroduction and ultimate recovery for the Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest is stronger than ever – and where it counts most, with the people of Arizona and New Mexico, with the public.

Despite illegal killings by those with no respect for the law or for one of the most endangered mammals in North America, despite the recalcitrance and outright hostility by certain government entities, despite rules that limit the wolves’ ability to range and thrive, and despite a long-overdue updated recovery plan, Mexican gray wolves are there, in the wild, in our national forests. 

There is much to do to ensure that we move beyond the threat of a second extinction in the wild for these critically endangered animals, however. We must first of all demand that the federal government stop the foot dragging and reintroduce additional wolves to help bolster the size of the small population – only 58 wolves – and to ensure greater genetic diversity in these wild wolves.

Without that there is concern that a war on wolves, a war of attrition, will mean their certain demise.

The rules that limit reintroductions of wolves in New Mexico should also be modified to allow direct releases in the Gila National Forest, which is the majority of the bi-state recovery area. New Mexicans have repeatedly expressed support for wolves in the wild – it is the government that does not seem to get that. One population of Mexican gray wolves in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico is not enough to ensure the long-term survival of this species. It is time to move forward with plans to reintroduce wolves to additional areas where they can thrive as well.

When the work to recover Mexican gray wolves started in 1976 due to the passage of the Endangered Species Act three years earlier, no one thought it would be easy to bring back this amazing animal. There have been decades of misinformation about wolves and a concentrated campaign to erase them from the face of the earth. Wolves had been eradicated in the Southwest by 1970, and few wolves remained in Mexico at that time. The strong commitment of the American people to protect endangered species, the Endangered Species Act … and the strong efforts and hard work of dedicated wildlife biologists and volunteers resulted in a population of wolves being reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico in 1998.

Fourteen years after those initial reintroductions, the wolves continue to struggle, however. It is not because they are not doing their part. They are forming packs – family units – breeding, raising young and killing elk and deer. They are fulfilling their role in the ecosystem. We need to fulfill our role as stewards, as people with a responsibility to these animals, their ecosystem, and to future generations of Americans. We must ensure that these animals have a chance and that our children can hear their howls decades from now. There is strong support from the public for that. Now we need our government at all levels to get that message.

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Please write a letter to the editor today to keep the pressure on decision-makers to save the Mexican gray wolf!!

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 publishing this Op-ed-this makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.

Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction; polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.

Urge the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to end the freeze on more releases of captive wolves into the wild. Releases of captive wolves must happen now to prevent another extinction in the wild; the number of wild wolves must increase to reduce their vulnerability to inbreeding, natural catastrophes, disease, and other threats.

Remind people that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own 2010 annual progress report, acknowledged that too few releases contribute to the wolves’ difficulties in finding mates;This acknowledgment was accompanied by a pledge to "replac[e] the individual animals lost through initial releases and translocations" (p. 29).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 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.

This article appeared in the Albuquerque Journal; you can 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!

Photo of author and friends showing support for lobos courtesy of Jean Ossorio