BISBEE — Cochise County has joined with a number of other counties in Arizona and in New Mexico in a lawsuit to stop the expansion of the exploratory recovery area of the Mexican Gray Wolf.
In an executive session Monday, Supervisors Ann English, Richard Searle and Pat Call agreed to be part of the effort of the coalition to stop the expansion.
The basis of the complaint filed by a number of public and private organizations is that the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, as suggested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior, covers too much territory. It is four times as much as was afforded in the 1998 rule, states the Petition for Review to the U.S. District Court in New Mexico.
“The 2015 rule provides a four-fold increase in the land area where Mexican wolves primarily are expected to occur and provides a 10-fold increase in the land area where Mexican wolves can be released from captivity,” states the complaint of New Mexico Attorney Andrea R. Buzzard, who represents the field of complainants.
The complaint also includes the increase in number of Mexican wolves to be released, raising the population by at least three-fold.
The new rule also denies the right of a livestock owner to “take” a Mexican wolf that has harmed stock unless a designated federal agency has engaged in removal action, Buzzard continues. Under the old law, provisions allowed the taking of a Mexican wolf if there were “six wolf breeding pairs and the wolves were wounding or biting livestock” on public lands, under grazing allotment.
Buzzard represents the interests of farmers, ranchers and landowners who live, work and graze livestock within the expanded Mexican Wolf Expanded Protection Area (MWEPA). Some of them have already suffered losses from the 1998 rule. They believe that they will lose more stock as these new Mexican wolves are released into this enormous area covering parts of New Mexico and Arizona, including Cochise County. The affected landowners and leasers are also wary of injury that may occur from wolf attacks to themselves and their families.
Sixteen counties comprise the local government membership in the Arizona-New Mexico Coalition including the Arizona counties Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham and Navajo. The local Whitewater Draw and the Willcox-San Simon Resource Conservation Districts also oppose the measure, according to Buzzard’s filing.
These petitioners did file substantive comments related to the MWEPA and agreed that the U.S. Forest Service should have performed a new study of the release areas and should not have relied on the one done 17 years ago.
Additionally, Buzzard claims that the USFWS”deliberately chose to exclude highly relevant information pertaining to the future plan for the recovery effort and states that it did not have time to prepare and include this information.”
Such information is critical, she said, because the action can cause adverse effects on people, their domestic animals and pets and livestock, which may end up in harm’s way by the release of the wolves in unstudied areas.
She requested the court take action against the USFWS and declare that the agency violated rules related to the Mexican wolf reintroduction.
The petition was filed on Feb. 12. The supervisors agreed to pay $5,000 toward the cost of the legal action, said Supervisor Pat Call.
So far, there has not been any word on the action by the court, Call added.
This article was published to the Sierra Vista Herald on February 24, 2014.
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 for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.
Letter to the Editor Talking Points and Tips
- Mexican gray wolves are beautiful, intelligent, native animals. We have a responsibility to them and to future generations to ensure their recovery.
- The overall population increase reported is good news, but the wild population of Mexican gray wolves remains critically endangered and in need of additional populations, new releases to improve the population’s genetics, and a scientifically valid recovery plan.
- Geneticists have warned for years that the wild population needs greater diversity, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to release new wolves into the wild to improve the wolves’ genetic health.
- Almost 17 years after the first Mexican wolves were reintroduced, there are still only 109 wolves in the wild. More wolves are needed to stop inbreeding that researchers suggest may be lowering litter sizes and depressing pup-survival rates.
- The window is closing on fixing the genetic issue, and one of the easiest steps the US Fish and Wildlife Service can take is to release more wolves from captivity, and do it now.
- This population increase is because of the wolves’ amazing ability to survive and breed pups. It is in spite of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to make needed changes and release more wolves.
- Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
- Polling shows that the majority of voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.
- Federal protections for Mexican wolves should be maintained and strengthened. Proposals by the Obama administration and members of Congress to strip gray wolves’ Endangered Species Act protections nationwide could make it nearly impossible for wolves to resume their natural role in excellent habitats in Utah and Colorado that scientists say are necessary for Mexican wolf recovery.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing the article.
- Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “livestock businesses may oppose wolves, but”¦” Remember that 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.
- Submit your letter here.
Photo credit: John Storjohann