For the third time in recent weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has had one of its partners abandon an agreement that was meant to bring more collaboration to the troubled effort to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest.
“¦ one federal official says there will undoubtedly be a loss of perspective with fewer partners at the table.
“We like to have that collaboration and that kind of thought process that leads to better decisions,” said Wally Murphy, supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s ecological services field office in New Mexico.
Murphy called the recent developments “disheartening,” given that the wolf program is facing critical decisions this year that will affect its future direction. The Fish and Wildlife Service is working on revamping the wolf recovery plan, which, among other things, will spell out what it will take to eventually get the animal off the federal endangered species list. “¦
Several counties, state agencies and tribal governments in Arizona and New Mexico had signed on to a memorandum of understanding in 2010. The purpose was to provide a framework of collaboration in hopes of balancing the program’s goals of returning wolves to the wild with pressures on ranchers, their livestock and other wildlife.
Now, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the White Mountain Apache Tribe and three Arizona counties — Greenlee, Navajo and Graham — are the only remaining partners aside from federal land and wildlife management agencies.
The exodus started last summer with the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. In late March, Grant and Sierra counties abandoned the agreement, and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture joined them earlier this week.
Caren Cowen, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association, said the withdrawal is “indicative of how far awry the process is with people on the ground.” “¦
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent survey, completed in January, puts the wolf population in New Mexico and Arizona at about 58.
Captive-bred wolves were first released in Arizona in 1998 as part of the reintroduction effort. Biologists hoped to have at least 100 in the Blue Range Recovery Area after eight years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acknowledged that the effort to increase the population has been hampered by everything from illegal shootings, removals due to livestock kills and court battles over program management.
For New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte, the decision to withdraw came down to staffing levels, budget limitations and the program’s lack of progress.
“If we get to the point where we get staffed up again and things start moving and input is requested and desired, then we’ll reconsider,” he said.
Some wolf supporters argue that the local partners that bowed out have done little to advance recovery of the Mexican wolves.
“This is not a great loss to wolf recovery,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has pushed for the release for more wolves into the wild. “They used their positions to organize against wolves and to try to be insiders in a process that should be more open to the public.”
Murphy described all the partners as critical and said he hoped they would sign on again once the agency comes up with a new recovery plan.
“One hundred wolves in the Blue Range was the best information we had in 1998. It’s 14 years later, so we’ve got better information now and going through this recovery planning process gets us to even a better place,” he said. “¦
Your Help is Needed to Show Strong Public Support for Mexican Wolves!!
This headline was very misleading- entities that used their positions to oppose Mexican wolf recovery are no loss, and public support for the wolves is growing. You can help show the tremendous public support for wolves in two ways:
Attend the lunchtime rally in Albuquerque on April 13 to end the freeze on Mexican wolf releases, and spread the word to get folks there.
April 13, 11:30 am — 1:30 am
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Regional Office
500 Gold Avenue SW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Click here for full details.
And submit a letter to the editor to one or more of the papers that ran this AP article. 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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these and please write in your own words, from your own experience. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Start by thanking paper for their coverage of this important issue-this makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- Stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction; polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.
- Emphasize that most of us want to return Mexican wolves and restore our natural heritage and agree with the statement in the article that the withdrawal of these groups from participation is no loss since they represented a small minority of those who still cling to the misguided prejudices that caused wolves to be wiped out in the first place.
- Point out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to keep more wolves in the wild by emphasizing tactics that help agribusiness and wolves coexist instead of removing wolves is starting to pay off; the program is moving forward through support and cooperation from those willing to take responsibility and share the land with wolves.
- Describe the wolves as they really are: beautiful, intelligent, family oriented animals which are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
- Point out that, while this is a positive step forward, this number is still dangerously low; Director Tuggle must keep his promise to release more wolves into the wild.
- Encourage the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to end the freeze on more releases of captive wolves into the wild. The agency has been sitting on an Environmental Assessment that can end the ridiculous rule prohibiting new releases into New Mexico and letting wolves eligible for release into both Arizona and New Mexico sit in captivity. The stalling has to stop.
- Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
- Reiterate the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife. 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.
- Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
- Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.
This article appeared in multiple papers; submission information is below:
Submit a letter here.
Farmington Daily Times
Submit a letter here.
Thank you for taking the time to submit a letter. The many letters to the editor expressing support for Mexican gray wolves published in the last year have made a real difference!
Mexican gray wolf photos courtesy of Amber Legras