By Ollie Reed Jr. / Journal Staff Writer
No public comment was officially permitted Tuesday during the state Game Commission’s review and subsequent denial of an appeal seeking to release Mexican gray wolves into the New Mexico wild this year.
But that didn’t prevent a vocal public reaction to the commission’s decision to uphold the state Game and Fish Department’s rejection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s request.
“No surprise,” called out one of the dozens of wildlife advocates crowded into the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Albuquerque. “Disgraceful,” others shouted, as well as, “You should be ashamed” and “You’re discredited.”
Members of Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, Bold Visions Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Southwest Environmental Center and others who support additional reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in the state turned out in force. Before the meeting, many of them assembled outside the hotel carrying signs reading “We Need Wolves” and “More Wolves, Less Politics.”
None of that had any effect on the commission, which voted unanimously to support Game and Fish Department Director Alexandra Sandoval’s denial of Fish and Wildlife’s release request.
Matthias L. Sayer, general counsel for Game and Fish, said Sandoval’s denial of the permit was not a value judgment but based on the fact the department did not know how many wolves would be released or where they would be set loose.
“Without that information, the director cannot be sure the release will not conflict with (Game Commission) policy,” Sayer said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department indicated it does not need the state’s approval to pursue its Mexican wolf recovery program.
Sherry Barrett, Mexican wolf coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, represented the federal agency during the appeal hearing. She provided the Journal with a written statement that says, in part, “It is our policy to consult with the states and comply with state permit requirements except in instances where the Secretary of the Interior determines that such compliance would prevent (Fish and Wildlife) carrying out our statutory responsibilities.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, Barrett told the Journal that the Fish and Wildlife Service will discuss its options in internal meetings and that one of those options is releasing the wolves into the Gila without New Mexico’s permission.
The Fish and Wildlife Service request had two parts: the placement of up to 10 Mexican wolf pups into active dens in the Gila National Forest so they might be raised by surrogate parents and the release two adult wolves and their pups into the Gila.
Barrett told the Game Commission the releases were not about increasing the wolf population, now about 110 animals in New Mexico and Arizona, but about improving the wolves’ genetic health. She said releases of genetically desirable wolves are vital to the genetic robustness of the wolves.
“We very much hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will proceed with releases into the Gila,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Mexican wolf is a beautiful, intelligent, social animal that despite rising numbers in recent years is still on the brink of extinction. That’s why Fish and Wildlife should release more wolves now.”
This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal.
The NM Game Commission is trying to halt the release of all Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico. We need to let the public know more about this outrageous action to sabotage lobo survival. Please take a stand now with 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.
- At last official count, only 110 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world. Actions such as NM Game Commission’s unwarranted denial of release permits will only further complicate efforts to recover these rare wolves.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority and the responsibility to do what is needed to recover these highly endangered wolves. The Service can, and should, override the state’s wrong-minded actions and release wolves to boost the wild population’s genetic health as soon as possible.
- It is high time that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe stop trying to appease state agencies that are hostile to wolves and other wildlife and enforced the Endangered Species Act.
- Mexican gray wolves are beautiful, intelligent animals that belong in the Southwest.
- The actions of Governor Martinez’s Game Commission to prevent the recovery of Mexican gray wolves are irresponsible and violate the public trust.
- The New Mexico Game Commission, under Governor Martinez, has clearly become a tool of a small anti-wolf minority and its actions are out of touch with the majority of New Mexico voters who support wolf recovery and understand the important role top carnivores play in our ecosystems.
- Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature. Actions to interfere with the Mexican gray wolf’s survival and recovery cheat us all of the opportunity to have wolves returned to their critical natural role.
- Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America. State and federal agencies should do all in their power to move these special wolves away from extinction towards recovery. Instead, Martinez’s Game Commission has chosen play politics with the wolves’ future.
- 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. New Mexico stands to benefit from wolf-related tourism, but only if the Mexican wolf reintroduction is allowed to succeed.
- The state is putting up roadblocks that could doom our lobos, but the feds are also dragging their feet on recovery. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should move forward with releases of adult wolves and families and should establish two new Mexican wolf populations north of I-40, as scientists have urged.
LETTER WRITING TIPS
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for this article and make sure to reference it in your LTE.
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WHERE TO SUBMIT YOUR LETTER:
Articles on the same topic appeared in multiple newspapers. You can submit letters to all of these:
The Taos News Game Commission won’t overturn rejection of feds’ permits for Mexican wolf releases
Submit your letter to The Taos News here.
Arizona Daily Sun New Mexico wildlife panel denies federal wolf permit appeal
Submit your letter to the Arizona Daily Sun here.
San Antonio Express News New Mexico wildlife panel denies federal wolf permit appeal
Submit your letter to the San Antonio Express News here.
Please contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.
Even before Arizona and New Mexico decided to block releases of wolves into the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dragged its feet on releasing new wolves from captivity. Instead of deferrring to the states, the Service should do its job and expedite the release of many more wolves into the wild.
I am calling to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to exercise its federal authority over the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction and stop allowing state game commissions in New Mexico and Arizona to undermine wolf recovery. The Service should be doing all in its power to ensure the recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves. Please expedite the release of adult wolves and wolf families to improve the wild population’s genetic health, rather than relying on risky cross-fostering, and stop giving in to state wildlife agencies made up of hostile special interests.