Several Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico say the federal government’s proposed approach to managing the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf population, which the state government has signed off on, is a “flawed, politically driven” plan that will shortchange the species and could lead to extinction.
In an Aug. 29 letter to Amy Lueders, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Southwest region, the lawmakers said the draft recovery plan could be fatal for the wolves.
The plan, they wrote, “is critically flawed and does not represent the best scientific and commercial data available.”
The 21 Democrats opposing the wolf recovery plan include nine state senators and representatives from Albuquerque and the surrounding area, seven lawmakers from the Las Cruces area and five from the Santa Fe area: Sens. Peter Wirth, Nancy Rodriguez and Liz Stefanics, and Reps. Linda Trujillo and Matthew McQueen.
Released in late June, the proposed wolf management plan has faced mounting opposition.
The lawmakers’ letter comes a week after the federal government closed the docket for public comment. More than 9,000 online comments were submitted, along with thousands more by mail, many in agreement with the Democratic lawmakers that the plan will do more to suppress than grow the species’ population.
Critics of the draft management plan, which has a court-ordered deadline of November, say additional markers are needed to ensure genetic diversity among the wolf population in New Mexico and Arizona.
The state lawmakers, in their letter to Lueders, call for numbers of the species to be raised much higher — closer to 750 wolves rather than 380, as outlined in the plan — before wolves can be removed from the wild or relocated to Mexico. And they say the range in which the wolves can be released should be expanded. The draft plan only allows releases south of Interstate 40.
At last count, there were 113 Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona and little genetic diversity among them.
Those who live closest to wolf release sites in New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, say the wolves are predatory and threaten valuable livestock. Some say the right number of wolves in the wild is zero.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the state Department of Game and Fish and the State Game Commission have voiced support for more conservative reintroduction efforts and restraint.
The State Game Commission gave its approval of the draft management plan, as it is, last month.
But wolf advocates argue the draft plan cedes too much power to the interests of the ranching community and Republicans, rather than basing management strategies on the latest scientific data.
Under the Obama administration, the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were entangled in litigation over which agency had the authority to allow or prohibit wolf releases. The state sought to prevent releases on the basis that an updated management plan for the wolves did not exist. The federal government said it had the authority to supersede the state under the Endangered Species Act.
A federal district court initially blocked the Fish and Wildlife Service from releasing captive-born wolves into the wild in the state, but an appeals court reversed the decision and said the releases could continue.
This article was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Show your support for Mexican wolves with a Letter to the Editor today!
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 Writing Tips & Talking Points
“¢ The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required, by law, to incorporate the best available science into its Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Unfortunately, they have scrapped this duty in order to attain the best political deal they could find. They have chosen to make hostile state agencies happy rather than uphold their duty to consider the best available science. The previous recovery planning science team clearly identified what these wolves need, yet those findings are being ignored.
“¢ The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to hand the management of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program to the states who have done everything in their power to sabotage the species’ recovery. Arizona game and fish ran the program for six years previously, and in that time they managed to reduce the number of wolves in the wild. The serious genetic problems the wild population is in is a direct result of the mismanagement by Arizona. If this plan is not dramatically changed, it will very likely drive the lobo to extinction.
“¢ The Mexican gray wolf draft recovery plan includes reckless delisting criteria for the critically endangered wolf. The plan allows for delisting the wolf after twenty-two wolves released from captivity reach reproductive age. But just reaching reproductive age does not ensure their genes will be contributed to the wild population. We have seen that poaching is a major threat to individual wild wolves and if these wolves are killed before they breed, the species will still be removed from the endangered species list.
“¢ Mexican gray wolves will need connectivity between wild populations in order to recover. Connectivity would be easy were they allowed to establish in the two additional suitable habitats in the U.S., the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to restrict the wolves to south of Interstate 40 and to establish a second population in Mexico. There is a barrier along large sections of the international border, talk of extending that barrier to an impenetrable wall, and the last wolf who crossed that border was removed from the wild.
“¢ The federal agency charged with recovery of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf has decided to put the onus of recovery on Mexico, despite the fact that this could wipe the species out. Mexico does not have nearly as much public land for the wolf, they have very little enforcement to deal with poaching, and as species shift north in response to climate change Mexican habitat will become even less suitable for wolves.
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, under 150 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 to the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican
The comment period is over, but you can read the comments that were submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service HERE.
Links to the Draft Recovery Plan and supporting documentation are provided below.
Additional Documentation Referenced in Draft Plan:
Draft Biological Report for the Mexican Wolf, May 1, 2017 version
Mexican Wolf Habitat Suitability Analysis in Historical Range in Southwestern US and Mexico, April 2017 version
5 peer reviews received on the above documents (Peer reviews are anonymous at this time but FWS will provide peer reviewers names and affiliations when the recovery plan and biological report have been finalized.)
READ MORE: New Lobo ‘Recovery’ Plan Puts Politics Before Science Risks Recovery of Highly Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves