By Madeleine Winer
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General’s Office have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging it has failed to update its Mexican-wolf recovery plan.
The state is asking the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a modern plan that would improve Arizona’s involvement in recovery efforts and establish a target number of Mexican wolves for the area.
“If you think about wildlife management, part of what you want is for a target number of animals for there to be a balance in the rest of the biotic community,” said Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department assistant director for wildlife management. “You don’t want to have too many of the one thing. We want a healthy population of wolves in balance with social, economic and wildlife needs in the state of Arizona.”
The current Mexican-wolf recovery plan, established in 1982, allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain a captive breeding program and re-establish the population with 100 Mexican wolves released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona and New Mexico in 1998. Currently, deVos said, 109 wolves inhabit Arizona.
The Game and Fish Department claims the 1982 plan fails to identify how many animals would constitute recovery of the population and allow the wolves to be removed from the list of endangered species in the future.
For decades, there have been conflicts between ranchers and the wolves. Federal protections restrict how these conflicts can be addressed, even when wolves kill livestock grazing on federal lands.
Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter director, said she feels the state filed the lawsuit to put limits on the number of Mexican wolves released into the wild in Arizona and the Sonoran Desert.
“They advocated for caps on the number of wolves,” she said. “Who puts an artificial cap on an endangered species? From a biological perspective and if they’re interested in recovery, they would not advocate for that.”
The department decided to file the lawsuit after the Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a notice of intent filed in January.
The Mexican wolf is an endangered species once hunted in parts of the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.
This article was published by the Arizona Republic and articles on the same topic appeared in numerous other media outlets.
Please help endangered Mexican gray wolves!
If you’re in Arizona, please come to a meeting of AZ Game and Fish this Friday, June 12, and speak or just stand for wolves. More info here.
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 decision-makers. Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all of the points below. Your letter will be effective if you keep it brief and focus on a few key points.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
- Although New Mexico and Arizona polling shows that the vast majority of voters in both states support the Mexican wolf reintroduction, state politics continue to hamper the program. This lawsuit by AZ Game and Fish is just one more action in a long list of actions by AZ Game and Fish to undermine the Mexican wolf recovery effort.
- Over the years, AZ Game and Fish has advocated for killing wolves, even whole families, accused of depredating on livestock. It has sent letters to Congress requesting that Mexican gray wolves be stripped of their Endangered Species Act Protections. And it has done everything it can to stop the release of new wolves from captivity, desperately needed to boost the genetic health of the wild lobo population.
- Recently, AZ Game and Fish bullied the US Fish and Wildlife Service into capping the number of endangered Mexican gray wolves allowed to live in the wild at 325, with no basis in science or recovery planning, to trap any lobos who travel to key habitats north of I-40, and to make it easier to kill and remove these highly endangered wolves. Now it is attempting to delay the recovery planning process while dismissing the peer reviewed findings of scientific experts about what the wolves need to recover.
- This lawsuit is a classic, and all too common case of state politics impeding scientific integrity. Even as AZ Game and Fish biologists who work on the Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team have been working hard to make the reintroduction program a success, the politically appointed members of the AZ Game and Fish Commission have repeatedly worked against the recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves and dismissed the recommendations of nationally recognized scientific experts.
- Peer reviewed science by top wolf experts says that Mexican wolves need four things to recover: they need two new populations north of Interstate 40 and the ability to travel between the three populations; they need genetic rescue, which requires expedited releases from the captive population; human caused mortality must decrease; and there must be an absolute minimum of 750 wolves in the wild. With no basis in science, AZ Game and Fish wants to keep wolves south of I-40, to block new releases, to loosen restrictions on killing and trapping wolves, and to allow no more than 325 wolves to live in the wild.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been stalling on a science-based recovery plan for over 33 years, largely due to political interference by AZ Game and Fish and other state agencies hostile to wolves. Instead of trying to delay and undermine science based recovery planning, AZ Game and Fish should be urging the Service to move forward now with the release of a draft plan based on the work of the science and planning subgroup for public review.
- A projected timeline of 2-3 years for a Mexican wolf recovery plan is unacceptable. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has for several years been sitting on a plan already drafted by scientific experts because it outlines changes necessary for recovery that have met with political resistance from state agencies hostile to wolf recovery, including Arizona Game and Fish.
- The AZ Game and Fish Commission meets this Friday, June 12th, in Payson, AZ and again in Flagstaff on August 7th. I urge everyone who cares the top carnivores so important to healthy ecosystems to show up at these meetings, either in person or at a regional office, and remind the Commission of its responsibility to the state’s endangered wolves and the majority of voters who support the reintroduction.
- Wolves are an essential part of the balance of nature. They keep elk and deer herds healthy by ensuring the most fit animals survive.
- Mexican gray wolves are beautiful, intelligent, family oriented animals who were persecuted and nearly exterminated by the government. Our state government should do everything in its power to ensure these native animals do not go extinct in the wild again.
- Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock losses. Most livestock losses are due to disease, accidents, and bad weather. The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife by using coexistence methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves.
- Wolves are part of God’s creation. We have a responsibility to take care of them.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing the article.
- 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 from the article, 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 150-200 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.”
- 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 letters here:
Arizona Republic submit here.
Arizona Daily Star (article) – submit here
Arizona Daily Sun (article) – submit here
Arizona Capitol Times submit here
Albuquerque Journal (article) – submit here
San Antonio Express News submit here
San Francisco Chronicle submit here
Yuma Sun (article) – submit here
Houston Chronicle submit here
Thank you for speaking out for endangered Mexican wolves!