The Socorro County Board of Commissioners approved its wolf-human interaction ordinance before an overflow crowd at its meeting Tuesday morning.
The vote followed a public hearing where supporters and opponents both gave emotional pleas about the ordinance, which would prohibit the release of Mexican wolves in Socorro County as part of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.
Socorro County Commissioner Danny Monette said he had to take into consideration the financial loss to ranchers from potential attacks on livestock before casting his vote in favor of the ordinance. Monette called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s effort to carry out the Endangered Species Act “a broken system.”
“First their goal was 100 wolves, then it was 300,” Monette said. “I don’t think they’ve given us really good answers.”
Commissioner Martha Salas said she understood the need for wolves to improve the ecosystem, but said measures were needed, including improving compensation for ranchers for livestock killed and measures for protecting human safety, including coming up with fortified bus stops for children living in areas where the wolves are released.
All of the commissioners voted in favor of the ordinance.
Salas’ sentiments about improving compensation echoed Speaker of the House Don Tripp’s thoughts about the program.
Tripp said current compensation for livestock kills wasn’t enough to cover the loss suffered by ranchers and farmers.
“We need to bring some common sense into it,” Tripp said. “We need to look into ways to totally reimburse ranchers.”
Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand told her Socorro counterparts that wolf attacks had cost ranchers in her county $80,000 in 2015 alone.
“And that doesn’t reflect the total economic impact,” Hand said.
Compensation was one of the concerns voice by rancher Deborah Tigner, who lives in an area where the wolves had been released. She said her family had not been compensated for cattle killed by wolves.
She said a U.S. Wildlife Service official was present when a wolf was eating a calf that was still warm.
Tigner said wildlife service officials later claimed it wasn’t a wolf kill.
“We would like to be safe,” Tigner said. “I have grandchildren who work our ranch. I would like them to be safe.”
“We don’t want the wolves killing our livestock,” said Socorro County rancher Randall Major. “This is bad for families and bad for our economies.”
John Wilson, who lives near Magdalena, said the degree of wilderness was what made living in Socorro County appealing, especially to retirees. He said the release of the wolves into the wild was part of the attraction.
He voiced a concern the ordinance could involve the county in litigation since it was going against the federal government’s intention to release the wolves.
Wilson said he believed the passing of the ordinance was “going to be a legal mess.”
“I don’t want to foot the bill with my taxes,” Wilson said.
Socorro County resident Matthew Mitchell expressed the belief the danger of the Mexican wolf expressed by those who supported the ordinance might be overstated.
He used his experience of helping feed the wolves at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge’s Wolf Management Facility to prove his point.
Mitchell mentioned feeding the wolves in an isolated location.
“You would think we were on a suicide mission,” Mitchell said in response to some of the claims made by some of the people supporting the ordinance.
The U.S Department of the Interior has granted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permission to release the wolves despite a decision by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to turn down the request earlier this year.
County Attorney Adren Nance told commissioners at an earlier meeting there was some question as to whether the ordinance was enforceable on federal land.
Commissioners were told again before the vote that the decision could face legal action.
If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goes ahead with plans despite state and local objections, it still could be some time before the wolves are released.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs Specialist Jeff Humphrey said the process of the release was complicated, and steps in the process could be delayed.
This article was published in the El Defensor Chieftain.
LET THE FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE KNOW THAT YOU CARE ABOUT WOLVES!
Please call or email Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and thank them for their commitment to recover Mexican wolves. Let them know that this issue is important to you and you will be closely watching for the new releases.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that it is going to proceed with their plans to release Mexican wolves into the wild, despite opposition from state agencies. It is important that we stay in communication with Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and USFWS Director, Dan Ashe, to make sure that they stay the course and work to improve the genetic health of the wild population.
Unfortunately, federal agencies too-often bow to anti-wolf states and make decisions that are not in the best interest of Mexican gray wolf recovery. So in cases like this, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to go forward with urgently needed releases in spite of state opposition, we want to give them lots of support and appreciation.
Secretary Sally Jewell: Phone: (202) 208-7351. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Talking points for your calls or emails:
Talking points for your calls or emails:
- I want to thank Secretary Jewell and Director Ashe for embracing their mission to recover endangered Mexican gray wolves and thoughtfully making a science-driven decision to move forward with releases to improve the wild wolf population’s genetic health.
- I hope that the decision to refuse to allow states to prevent actions necessary for Mexican wolf recovery will also apply to Arizona.
- I want to encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to follow the best available science and be willing to adaptively manage to improve the lobos’ genetic health — even if that requires more and faster releases than have originally been estimated.
- Thank you for doing the right thing for endangered Mexican gray wolves.
If you email, be sure to include your full name and address so that they know this is a legitimate message.
THANK YOU FOR ACTING TO ENSURE THE FUTURE OF THESE SPECIAL WOLVES!