By Deborah Baker / Journal Staff Writer
SANTA FE — The state Department of Game and Fish has turned down requests from the federal government to release Mexican wolf pups and an adult pair onto U.S. Forest Service land in New Mexico this year.
That followed the state Game Commission’s rejection of permit renewals for Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch wolf-holding facility in Sierra County, considered key to the federal program.
Both denials are being appealed to the commission and are on the agenda for its Aug. 27 meeting [See Rally info below].
They’re the latest bumps in the road to Mexican wolf recovery, which has gotten rockier under the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s the first time New Mexico has rejected the agency’s annual operational permit request.
“Our desire is to work with the state as we move forward with wolf recovery. “¦ The denial of this permit request will adversely affect our ability to recover the Mexican Wolf,” the federal agency said in a statement.
Critics say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t need state permission to carry out its mandate for wolf recovery and should just forge ahead.
But spokesman Jeff Humphrey in Phoenix said Friday that the agency “always prefers to work with our state partners.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service asked the state for permits to import and release up to 10 wolf pups for a cross-fostering program. Pups up to 10 days old that were bred in captivity in other states would be inserted into active dens in the Gila National Forest, then raised in the wild by the surrogate parents.
Recovery advocates say it’s critical to the success of the program that the genetics of the wolf population — bred from just seven wolves — be broadened.
The federal agency also asked for a permit for the release of two wolves and their offspring into the Gila. While the plan was to release them on national forest lands in Arizona, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it wanted New Mexico’s approval in case the plan had to be changed.
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Director Alexandra Sandoval rejected both requests last month, citing “the lack of a federal species management plan, i.e., recovery plan.”
The official Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery plan dates to 1982 and hasn’t been updated, a sore point with advocates of the program as well as its critics.
But the federal agency said in its June 22 appeal that Sandoval’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.” There’s nothing in law or regulation that requires the service to revise a recovery plan in order for the director to issue a permit, it said.
“There is no rational basis for the director’s decision,” it said in its appeal.
Turner’s Ladder Ranch — from which wolves were removed late last year — has been permitted by the department for the past 17 years to hold, in large pens, wolves that were slated for release by the federal government or had been removed from the wild.
The Game Commission, which is appointed by the governor, denied a permit renewal in May.
Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, said in addition to that, the fund is appealing the department’s rejection in June of its request to transfer six captive wolves from the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility to the Ladder Ranch so that routine maintenance could be done at Sevilleta. The request was made under its current permit, which Phillips said runs through 2016.
The department objected to the wolf management practices at the Ladder Ranch, saying they potentially predisposed the animals to nuisance behavior when they were released into the wild.
“We think they have drawn an erroneous conclusion about the operations of the Ladder Ranch and ask the commission to reverse the (department) director,” Phillips told the Journal .
This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.
Photo of Dark Canyon Pack courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Santa Fe Community College
6401 Richards Ave.
Santa Fe New Mexico
Click here for map
The rally is at 8 am
The Game Commission meeting begins at 8:30 a.m.
Please RSVP for the rally and/or meeting here.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
- The actions of the New Mexico Game Commission in denying these permits are petty and violate the public trust. Governor Martinez needs to make this right by getting the Ladder ranch and USFWS permits granted.
- For 17 years, Ladder Ranch has been an excellent partner in the effort to pull Mexican wolves back from the brink of extinction. US Fish and Wildlife Service must be able to release wolves into New Mexico to improve the dwindling genetic health of the wild population. New Mexico Game Commission has given no good reasons for denying the Ladder Ranch or USFWS permits because it has none-only a desire to block the recovery of these native wolves. These decisions should be reversed.
- At last official count, only 110 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world. Actions such as NM Game Commission’s unwarranted denial of the Ladder Ranch and USFWS permits will only further complicate efforts to recover these rare wolves.
- The New Mexico Game Commission, under Governor Martinez, has clearly become a tool of a small anti-wolf minority and its actions are out of touch with the majority of New Mexico voters who support wolf recovery and understand the important role top carnivores play in our ecosystems.
- Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature. Actions to interfere with the Mexican gray wolf’s survival and recovery cheat us all of the opportunity to have wolves returned to their critical natural role.
- Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world. State and federal agencies should do all in their power to move these special wolves away from extinction towards recovery. Instead, Martinez’s Game Commission has chosen play politics with the wolves’ future.
- Wolves generate economic benefits – a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy. New Mexico stands to benefit from wolf-related tourism, but only if the Mexican wolf reintroduction is allowed to succeed.
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses and there are many tried and true methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves. Responsible managers and livestock owners emphasize conflict avoidance instead of scapegoating wolves.
- The federal government nearly drove the Mexican gray wolf to extinction in the 1900’s. We have a moral responsibility to do all we can to ensure these wolves do not go extinct and NM Game Commission is ignoring that sacred charge and their public trust responsibility.
- Governor Martinez and her Game Commission should not be interfering with the rights of a responsible landowner to use his private land to aid wolf recovery.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for this excellent editorial.
- 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, 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, between 150-300 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.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
- 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 ABQ Journal here.
Contact the Governor’s office and request respectfully that she put an end to her Commission’s anti-carnivore state wildlife policies, grant the Mexican wolf permit to Ladder Ranch, and rescind the rule giving the Commission this authority.
Calls are most effective: 505-476-2200
You can also sign a petition to the Governor here.