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Open Records Battle Over Mexican Wolf

Milan Simonich Blog, El Paso Times, October 24, 2012 - (posted 10/26/12)

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Feds erase 682 pages regarding capture of NM lobo

Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians says the Obama administration is guilty of obstructing public records.

At issue is the federal government redacting most information about its capture of a Mexican wolf last summer.

Fewer than 60 Mexican wolves live in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona, making them the West's most endangered lobo subspecies.

The federal agency Wildlife Services in August removed one of the female Mexican wolves, allegedly for killing livestock.

WildEarth Guardians made an open-records request for the case file. Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians said today that 682 of 870 pages were blacked out when the government belatedly released the document this month.

In sum, public employees wasted a lot of tax dollars to print blacked-out pages.

“This is public information, and the federal government must account for the capture and incarceration of the Fox Mountain Loba,” Keefover said.

So far, that is not the case. A government agency has kept its actions a secret.

Too bad, because even those who complain that wolves are unwanted predators would like to inspect the federal government's findings about livestock kills and the lobo's capture.

We called the national office of Wildlife Services and left a message inquiring as to why the complete file on the wolf's capture had not been released. Is this a matter of national security? Why all the redactions? Why did it take two months to turn over an incomplete file?

We will update this story when a government spokesman responds.

Meantime, Keefover said the records she received proved nothing.

"The few pages that do document supposed Mexican wolf livestock kills by the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack are sketchy, even inconclusive," Keefover said. "In one instance, rains had obliterated tracks and in another a rancher claimed to see a 'large canine' in a meadow. In two other incidents attributed to the Fox Mountain pack, the cow carcasses were found either in a completely dried-out state or in 'advanced decomposition.' "

It should be a simple matter to obtain records about the government capturing a lone wolf. No struggle should be required.

But too often, those in power at the state and federal levels try to wear down the citizenrey with stall tactics. They hope people will give up rather than seek details about how government works -- or how it fails.

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This article ran in the October 24 issue of the El Paso Times.

A similar story was published by the Associated Press on October 23.

Please CLICK HERE to read the Associated Press article and write letters to the editor.

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