Wolf News


In the News: Utah balks at being part of wolf recovery zone

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah state officials are balking at the possible inclusion of southern Utah in a recovery zone for the Mexican gray wolf.

Scientific research shows the animals have never lived north of Interstate 40, which runs through New Mexico and Arizona, the Utah Wildlife Board contends in a letter sent this week to the Department of the Interior.

The board suggests that trying to lure the wolves to Utah would actually harm the species because they would hybridize with Northern gray wolves. The animals would prey on the state’s big game population that includes deer and elk and potentially cut into rich hunting terrain that brings in millions to Utah’s coffers.

“Promoting or fostering Mexican wolf recovery in Utah and Colorado is simply bad policy, bad science, bad for the Mexican wolf and bad for the states strapped with the burden of hosting protected wolf populations,” board chairman John Bair wrote.

Interior officials said in a statement that the department is aware of the letter and will review it along with other comments as they formulate a recovery plan.

The board’s letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell dovetails with a similar letter sent last month by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and governors in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife decided to list the Mexican wolf, a smaller subspecies of the gray wolf, as endangered. Federal wildlife officials estimate there are 110 Mexican wolves in the wild.

Southern Utah was included in the latest draft of a recovery plan that has had several iterations over the last several decades without a final one ever being established, said Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Fish and Wildlife officials have convened a meeting next week in southern Arizona to discuss the recovery plan with representatives from Southwest states and some scientists from the team assembled

Robinson aid the board’s letter is wrong on several fronts, including the notion that the historical range of the animal is set in stone. Robinson there’s some evidence to suggest they did live in parts of Utah. And even if Utah wasn’t a main part of the historical habitat, it may be needed to help the animal flourish in the future, he said.

“The letter is disingenuous. It twists the science on its head,” Robinson said. “It’s clear that the state of Utah is trying to stack the recovery team with people that will keep wolves out of the state.”

Herbert and the other governors also contend in their letter that science does not suggest the animals lived north of Interstate 40, while also accusing Fish and Wildlife of filling a panel dedicated to the recovery plan with scientists who want to establish wolves north of that point.

Robinson disagrees, saying the team of scientists includes some of the world’s foremost experts on wolves.

Wolf reintroduction has been a contentious issue in the Northern Rockies, as well. Gray wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s. That population has spread out of the park and into Idaho, Montana and elsewhere.

Utah wildlife officials emphasize in their letter that the introduction of Mexican wolves could cost the state money. The state brings in $20.5 million annually from license, permit and application fees for hunting. About 43 percent of the state’s wildlife division’s budget comes from hunting when you include federal aid based on hunting licenses, the letter said.

Some of the state’s finest hunting terrain is in the southern part of the state that could be impacted, wildlife officials say.

“These hunting permits are extremely popular, and hunters often wait years or decades to obtain a hunting permit to one of them,” the letter said. “We see introduction of federally-managed Mexican wolves as a direct threat to successful wildlife management in Utah.”

This Associated Press article was published in several news sources.  See below for links and contacts for letter submissions.
Please write a letter to the editor today. The US Fish and Wildlife Service
should not allow States to stand in the way of wolf recovery.
(Editor contacts provided below.)

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. Your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few of the talking points below rather than trying to include them all.

Talking Points

  • The state is using out of date information — newer studies support a more northward range for Mexican gray wolves historically.  Genetic research has found evidence of Mexican wolf genetic markers in Utah and Colorado, and as far north as Nebraska.
  • The Endangered Species Act does not require recovery to occur within species’ historic range.  Surely Mr. Bushman knows this.
  • It’s hypocritical for the governors to argue that Mexican wolves should be excluded based on whether they are “native.”  The state game agencies have no problem moving game species and fish into places they never lived simply for the convenience of hunters and fishermen.
  • If Mexican gray wolves need habitat in Utah to survive, I am happy to have them here.
  • Recovery of Mexican gray wolves cannot occur wholly in Mexico.  There are no large blocks of public lands, there is not a great deal of suitable habitat and prey, and there may not be enough resources to do the job.
  • We need wolves, be they Mexican gray wolves or northern wolves, to help repair Utah’s wildlands.   Taking a lesson from Yellowstone and the important role of top predators in ecosystems, many of us would welcome lobos to Utah.
  • States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens.  State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore and preserve all forms of wildlife, including predators.  Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
  • For over 10,000 years, grey wolves lived throughout Utah and Colorado and played an important role in shaping the landscape and maintaining balance in nature.  Under state management, most subspecies of wolves were hunted and trapped to extinction.  The highly endangered Mexican grey wolf is the most appropriate surviving subspecies for recovery in Utah and Colorado, and they cannot recover without help from all four states.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service should stop letting anti-wolf state officials obstruct wolf recovery.  The last effort to create a Mexican wolf recovery plan stalled precisely because the states were given opportunities to weigh in before the work of the scientific experts was released for public comment. The most recent recovery planning process, which began in 2011, ended amidst allegations of political interference by these same states with the science.
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a scientific integrity complaint in 2012 saying that US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed politics to interfere with the new Mexican wolf recovery planning process by encouraging scientists to lower or forgo the numeric target for recovery, responding to state demands to exclude Utah, Colorado, and Northern Arizona from suitable habitat, and attempting to prevent the science subgroup from issuing final Mexican wolf recovery criteria.

Letter Writing Tips

Make sure you:

  • Thank the paper for publishing this article and make sure to reference it in your letter.
  • 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, 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, no more than 200 words. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
  • 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.
Where to submit your letter:

The Herald — Provo, UT
Submit a Letter to the Editor HERE.

Arizona Daily Star — Tucson, AZ
Submit a Letter to the Editor HERE.

Arizona Daily Sun — Flagstaff, AZ
Submit a Letter to the Editor HERE.
Santa Fe New Mexican — Santa Fe,NM
Submit a Letter to the Editor HERE.
Albuquerque Journal — Albuquerque, NM
Submit a Letter to the Editor HERE.
The Salt Lake Tribune has published several articles on this topic. Follow the links below to read the articles and submit letters. You can revise your letter slightly and submit it to all of these news outlets.

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