Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves Need a Modern Recovery Plan
The Mexican gray wolf was placed on the endangered species list in 1976, and six years later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan developed by an interagency Mexican wolf recovery team. The 1982 recovery plan called for continued captive breeding of wolves and reintroduction to establish an initial two populations in the wild. But in recognition that Mexican wolves were extraordinarily imperiled, the recovery team did not develop delisting criteria – they could not imagine the Mexican wolf’s desperate plight made secure enough to take it off the endangered species list – and acknowledged that their recommendations for recovery were only first steps.
In the mid-1990s, with reintroduction nearing to create the first (and thus far only) population in the wild, Fish and Wildlife Service established a new recovery team, which drafted a revised Mexican wolf recovery plan that included delisting criteria. But the federal agency never approved the draft revised recovery plan.
In 2003, the agency convened another recovery team, also charged with developing a new recovery plan, but in 2005 the agency suspended the team’s meetings and work.The Mexican wolf, an animal reduced to just seven surviving animals before captive breeding enabled reintroduction to begin, still has no recovery plan to address the vexing genetic problems now besetting the wild population; the 1982 plan does not discuss genetics. The Mexican wolf still has no recovery and delisting criteria that can serve as a scientific and managerial benchmark for how many wolves, in what distributions and with what safeguards in place, constitutes recovery.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finally convened a new Mexican gray wolf recovery planning team in 2011. The team is composed of several teams-scientists, stakeholders, tribal liaisons, and agency liaisons. The important work of developing genetic recommendations and recovery criteria is being done by the science team. The new Recovery Plan should provide for additional populations of Mexican wolves to improve their overall resiliency and recovery. It seemed progress was finally being made, until summer 2012, when the FWS suddenly canceled the next scheduled recovery planning team meeting, and allegations of political interference with the science emerged in the press.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a scientific integrity complaint, saying that the FWS has 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 demands to exclude Utah and other states from suitable habitat, and attempting to prevent the science subgroup from issuing final Mexican wolf recovery criteria. In response to the PEER complaint, United States Congressman Raúl Grijalva – AZ sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior asking for a full and fair investigation of the allegations of political interference. This complaint was reviewed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and dismissed on weak justifications, which is not surprising, given that the complaint was reviewed by the very agency against which it was filed.
On June 20th, 2012, the American Society of Mammalogists, the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Society for Ecological Restoration sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that urges the FWS to immediately resume the recovery planning process for the Mexican wolf, which is now over a year behind schedule. Given the precarious conservation status of the Mexican wolf, and the fact that recovery efforts are still being guided by a plan from 1982, the three scientific societies offered their assistance in order to move recovery planning forward for the species.
In October of 2012, Congressmen Grijalva and Polis sent a letter to USFWS Director Dan Ashe, urging greater protections for Mexican gray wolves and asking again that the recovery planning process be expedited. As of this date, the recovery planning effort has yet to move forward.
FWS is now moving forward with with proposed changes to the Mexican wolf reintroduction rules without the roadmap an updated Recovery Plan woud provide. In fact, much of what is proposed is contrary to the science team's leaked draft recommendations.
We must keep the pressure on the FWS to expedite completion of a new, scientifically valid recovery plan!
Genetic rescue planning and new populations of wolves are essential to the lobo's recovery. Without the strong public support shown through the letters, emails, phone calls, letters to the editor, and public participation of citizen activists, there would have been no Mexican wolf reintroduction in the first place. Lobos still exist because of the many actions taken on their behalf.
To make a new Mexican wolf recovery plan a reality, please join PEER, scientists, and Congressman Grijalva in calling on US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, and NM Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to ensure development of a science based recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf.
Some talking points for your letter are below-remember that it will be most effective written in your own words, from your own experience.
- A new, science-based recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan is way overdue; the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be doing all in its power to expedite release of a draft plan based on the work of the scientific subcommittee.
- Consistent with the Interior Department's Scientific Integrity Policy, a thorough investigation of political interference with the scientific recovery planning process should be made immediately in response to the complaint by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
- Obstruction by anti-wolf special interests and politics has kept this small population of unique and critically endangered wolves at the brink of extinction for too long and can no longer be allowed to do so.
- Development of a new recovery plan that will address decreased genetic health and ensure long-term resiliency in Mexican wolf populations must move forward without delay.
- 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.
- Wolves bring tremendous ecological benefits 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.
- You can make your letter more compelling by talking about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a camper or hiker wanting 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.
- Please email your letter to US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and post a copy to NM Senators Udall and Heinrich. Include your full name, address, and phone number.
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves!
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