PHOENIX — Arizona Republicans who say the federal government is overstepping its boundaries are targeting a gray-wolf recovery program with bills that allow livestock owners to shoot the wolves while also directing the state Legislature to consider banning conservation efforts.
The Senate Committee on Government and Environment on Friday approved a bill that would allow ranchers to kill wolves in self-defense and would direct the Arizona Legislature to consider pulling the state out of the program. It also would require officials to push for federal reimbursement for any damage to, and use of, private property involving Mexican wolves. For example, the federal government would be required to reimburse ranchers if their cattle lost value because of Mexican wolves.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has a program in place that reimburses livestock owners for the death or injury to animals caused by gray wolves.
House Bill 2699 is similar to one passed in the Senate that also targets the federal program that aims to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in Arizona, New Mexico and other states. Proponents say the wolves are detrimental to livestock and that the federal government is overstepping its boundaries by imposing the program on the state.
“How can the federal government tell us that they are just going to use our property without permission?” asked bill sponsor Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff.
Thorpe’s bill is similar to one the Senate passed last month that also allows livestock owners to shoot wolves if they are threatening their livestock.
Opponents of the bill say Mexican wolves don’t actually kill as many livestock as proponents say they do.
In fact, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service paid out $14,300 for the deaths of 19 livestock in 2012, the latest available figure.
Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, said the bill violates the federal Endangered Species Act.
“Basically it treats wolves as if they did not belong in Arizona, and as we know, these are a native wildlife species that are being recovered. Wildlife is not private property. It’s a public-trust responsibility, and trying to say that a wolf shouldn’t wander over a piece of private property over state trust lands is inappropriate and contrary to law, certainly,” Bahr said.
There are currently 82 Mexican wolves in both Arizona and New Mexico, a Wildlife Service spokesman said.
This Associated Press article was published in several newspapers, including the Santa Fe New Mexican.
You can help by contacting your Arizona Legislators and submitting letters to the editor .
If you don’t live in AZ, you can still help by submitting a letter to the editor.
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. These are also good talking points for contacting your legislators.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
- At last official count, only 37 Mexican gray wolves were found in AZ, and only 83 were found total in the wild, making them critically endangered. We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to ensure their recovery and not push them closer to extinction as these bills aim to do.
- The proposed legislation will waste taxpayer money on litigation to impede wolf recovery and embarrass the state by attempting to illegally override federal laws that protect endangered species.
- Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Legislation to impede wolf recovery is a slap in the face to the majority of voters who want wolves to thrive.
- People who care about wolves should call on their AZ House members to oppose anti-wolf measures. Information about how to do that is at mexicanwolves.org.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long.
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Funds are available to help livestock growers implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing the article.
- Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “cows may have been killed by wolves, 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.”
- 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.
Arizona Daily Sun Submit letter here.
San Francisco Chronicle Submit letter here.
Please also contact your AZ Legislators directly and tell them politely that you expect them to oppose these bills that embarrass Arizona, waste taxpayer money and fly in the face of overwhelming majority public support for wolf recovery.
CLICK HERE for contact information and talking points.
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