By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES — Conservation groups are crying foul over legislation introduced last week that would remove federal protections for endangered Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona once their combined population reaches 100 for two consecutive years.
“Once again, some members of Congress are willing to put politics before science,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. “Congress should not be deciding which species deserve protections and which ones do not. . . . These decisions should be based on the best available science and determined by professional wildlife managers.”
The office of New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, said Wednesday he plans to co-sponsor the bill, H.R. 1819, sponsored by Michigan Republican Rep. Candice Miller. “¦
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released wolves in a national forest in southeast Arizona in 1998 under a recovery effort that was expected to produce 100 wolves in the Southwest by 2006. Federal officials say there were 50 wolves in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico at the end of 2010, up from 42 in 2009.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said federal officials never established 100 wolves as a recovery goal.
Fish and Wildlife is in the early stages of developing an updated recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, but Robinson said the legislation, if passed, would “render recovery planning irrelevant.””¦
A spokesman for Miller did not respond to emailed questions about how she arrived at 100 wolves for the trigger for state management of Mexican gray wolves.
Pearce has co-sponsored a bill introduced by Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg in January that would amend the Endangered Species Act so it does not apply to the gray wolf.
In February Pearce submitted an amendment, which never made it into a continuing funding resolution adopted by the House, that would have eliminated funding for the Southwest wolf program.
New Mexico Rep. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, said of Miller’s bill, “As with any species, once scientists have determined that the Mexican gray wolf has reached biological viability and is no longer endangered or threatened, I would support shifting management responsibility to state game and fish agencies. These decisions should be guided by effective science-based conservation and not partisan politics.”
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., did not respond to a request for comment.
You can read the full article, published in the Albuquerque Journal, and post a comment, here. Non-subscribers, scroll down and click on the trial pass button.
PLEASE SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR, criticizing politicians like Rep. Pearce who would base endangered species decisions on political whims, rather than the sound science required by the Endangered Species Act, and calling on AZ and NM members of Congress to protect the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf.
You can submit your letter here.
LETTER WRITING TIPS AND TALKING POINTS
This is your letter, so write in your own words, from your own experience. Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly; if you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to email@example.com:
* Start by thanking the Albuquerque Journal for their story and reference the story by name.
* Stress that only about 50 Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild; now is not the time to weaken their Endangered Species Act protections.
* Encourage your Senators https://www.govtrack.us/congress/membersto fight all bills or riders that would weaken the Endangered Species Act and place wolves at greater risk of extinction and ask your fellow citizens to speak up against them.
* Point out that these bills and riders set a precedent that endangers all wildlife.
* 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.
* Share your positive impressions of why it’s important to keep wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. Talk about the need for solutions, like a new federal wolf recovery plan.
* Keep your letter between 150-300 words, depending on the paper’s limit.
* Provide your name, address and phone number; your full address and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.
* Feel free to write one letter and revise it for several papers, including papers outside where you live.
Surveys show that the letters page is one of the most closely read parts of the paper. It’s also the page policy-makers look to as a barometer of public opinion. If you mention AZ and NM Senators Kyl, McCain, Udall, and/or Bingaman in your letter, the agency or Senator’s staff will most likely see that letter during a regular scan of the media.
Photo courtesy of Robin Silver