ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being sued over what environmentalists claim is the agency's failure to implement decade-old recommendations aimed at boosting recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed its lawsuit Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
"The only wild Mexican wolf population on Earth is stagnant and losing irreplaceable genetic diversity because the Fish and Wildlife Service is ignoring the pleas of scientists and stalling on vital reforms," said Michael Robinson, a wolf specialist with the environmental group.
The complaint centers on recommendations developed by a panel of scientists that was convened by the agency in 2001 to review the wolf program. The panel came up with more than a dozen recommendations that included releasing more wolves and reducing the number of wolves removed from the wild due to livestock scavenging and other reasons.
The recommendations also called for allowing wolves to live outside the recovery zone that straddles the Arizona-New Mexico border. The scientists had said that limiting the wolves' range wasn't something that had been done with recovery efforts in the Northern Rockies, the Great Lakes or the Southeast and that such a policy would lead to "serious logistical and credibility problems" as the population grows.
The scientists also called for the recovery plan that guides wolf management to be revised by June 2002. A decade later, that has yet to be done.
Efforts to return the wolves to the American Southwest have been hampered by everything from politics to illegal killings. Disputes over management of the program have also spurred numerous legal actions by environmentalists who have been pushing for more wolves in the wild and ranchers who are concerned about their livelihoods and safety in rural communities.
At last count, there were at least 58 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico — far below what biologists had initially expected. The next survey will begin in January.
The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned in 2004 to have the Fish and Wildlife Service implement the recommendations that called for allowing wolves to roam outside the recovery area, releasing wolves directly into the vast Gila National Forest in New Mexico and requiring ranchers to remove livestock carcasses to discourage the predators from developing a taste for cattle.
The agency pledged to consider the recommendations in response to a 2006 lawsuit, so that suit was dropped. However, nothing has been done, Robinson said.
"We're trying to jumpstart this reintroduction program before it's too late," he said.
This story has been published in news sources across the Nation. Some are listed below along with contact information for letters to the Editor.
PLEASE SUBMIT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THANKING THE PAPER FOR THIS ARTICLE AND CALLING ON THE US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO RELEASE MORE WOLVES INTO THE WILD.
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 email@example.com.
Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health, especially now.
Remind readers that, at last count, just 58 wolves, including six breeding pairs, survived in the wild. The wild population is extremely small and vulnerable to threats such as disease, inbreeding, or natural events. The USFWS should end the freeze on new releases of captive wolves into the wild.
State that the USFWS needs to change the rule that prohibits releasing wolves into New Mexico if they have not previously lived in the wild. The USFWS has for years been sitting on the Environmental Assessment that would make changing this problematic rule possible. Allowing direct releases in New Mexico will give wildlife managers the flexibility to get more wolves on the ground, regardless of unexpected events like forest fires. It will allow them to choose the best places for releases to succeed. And it will give these important animals a much better chance at recovery.
Advocate for a new, science-based recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan; the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be doing all in its power to expedite release of a draft plan based on the work of the scientific subcommittee. Development of a new recovery plan that will address decreased genetic health and ensure long-term resiliency in Mexican wolf populations must move forward without delay.
Inform readers that obstruction by anti-wolf special interests and politics has kept this small population of unique and critically endangered wolves at the brink of extinction for too long and can no longer be allowed to do so.
Say that to reduce livestock-wolf conflicts livestock owners should be required to remove dead livestock from public lands or render the carcasses inedible (by applying lime). Dead livestock left lying around on the landscape can lead wolves to become habituated to domestic meat.
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.
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.
Describe 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.
Please send us a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org as well to help us track actions being taken for the wolves.
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves!
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