By Reyes Mata
LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico State Game Commission voted unanimously today to suspend the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction program in the state.
“I would like to suspend it for a while, lets see how it lays out,” said Commissioner Thomas “Dick” Salopek.
“Both sides have been unhappy about the wolf recovery program. We have been keeping peace between all people. So, you know what, if both sides are unhappy, then let’s suspend it and let the federal government do it. I am frustrated at both sides, especially with the federal government.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department – following the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act – looks for partners throughout the state to protect endangered species, like the Mexican wolf. The New Mexico State Game Commission has been a partner to protect the Mexican wolf since 1999. Today’s regular meeting, which for the first time this year was in Las Cruces, sought to gather public opinion to help guide the state’s wolf protection policy.
About 50 Mexican wolves are spread over New Mexico and Arizona.
Dan Williams, public information officer for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish – a partner in coordinating the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program – said it was a “balanced” public comment session.
“But we will no longer be participating in the Mexican Wolf reintroduction program,” he said. “It’s an argument that’s been going on since 1999.” June 30 will be last day the New Mexico Game and Fish Department participates in the program, he said.
The sentiment expressed at the meeting was passionate.
“Hunting is under fire from every front,” said Tom Klunker, director of the Southwest New Mexico Outfitters. He said the federal Endangered Species Act was used as a way to further a hidden agenda.
“It’s not about the endangered wolf, or the spotted owl,” he said. Environmentalists “use that, very successfully, as a tool to remove humans from the land. They view the wilderness as something aesthetic, like a utopian playground. They want humans out of those areas.”
Michael J. Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, bristled at that characterization.
“That’s paranoid ranting,” he said. “Animals, like the Mexican wolf, that are on the brink of extinction play an important role in the balance of nature. New Mexicans – both urban and rural – support the recovery of this beautiful, intelligent and social animal. These animals have been gravely persecuted.”
Carol Fugagli, of Cliff, N.M., said she and her son were recently camping in the Gila Hot Springs when they “heard the mysterious and beautiful” howl of a wolf.
“I instantly got chills of excitement and was stunned and filled with the beauty of the sound,” she said. “Unfortunately I have not heard the wolf cry again, but I don’t want this to be a distant memory for my son. I want him to grow in an environment where there is a full spectrum of biological diversity so he can share similar experiences with his children.
“I feel (the wolves) are a highly valued and needed element (of nature). My family does not feel that wolves are a threat to our safety in any way. I don’t think humans can pick and choose which animals should or should not be in the wilderness.”
Reyes Mata III can be reached at (575) 541-5452.
You can read the article on the Las Cruces Sun-News website and post a comment here.
The NM Game Commission’s decision is unacceptable and calls for strong public outrage.
PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE LAS CRUCES SUN-NEWS. Your letter should thank them for this article, talk about the importance of Mexican wolves to the Southwest, and criticize the NM Game Commission for this short-sighted, poorly judged decision. Letters can be submitted here.
Your letter will likely be read by the Commissioners or staff, but you can also contact the Commissioners directly and tell them how destructive this decision is to the Southwest’s lands, wildlife, and people.
Photo credit: A pro-wolf rally and press conference was held at the Farm and Ranch Museum, in view of the Commissioners, before the meeting started yesterday. Courtesy of Phil Carter.