Pause for a moment and savor this: The population of endangered Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico grew from 75 to 83 last year. That’s nearly double the 2009 count.
It’s a victory for our shared national values, which are expressed in the Endangered Species Act.
OK. Enough savoring. Now, back to a reality.
Lobos remain perilously close to extinction’s cliff, and Arizona’s Legislature is poised to give them a shove over the edge.
The Senate Government and Environment Committee approved three measures this week aimed at wolf reintroduction like a bullet to the brain.
SB 1211 would allow the Arizona Department of Agriculture or ranchers to kill wolves suspected of eating beef without fear of federal prosecution — an amnesty from federal law that Arizona lacks the authority to grant.
SB 1212 appropriates $250,000 from the general fund “for litigation expenses.” That’ll come in handy.
A resolution, SCR 1006, calls for shifting management of this endangered species from federal to state control and focusing reintroduction efforts on the mountains of Mexico. Because, of course, Arizona can dictate to the governments of two nations.
These measures are championed by Republican Sen. Gail Griffin. All passed the committee on party-line votes.
Instead of trying to undermine reintroduction that began in 1998, the focus should be on finding ways for wolves and public-land ranchers to co-exist.
Such a peace plan exists. Lawmakers heard about it at the hearing — right before voting to approve the anti-wolf, anti-federal government stuff.
Craig Miller of the Defenders of Wildlife told the committee his group is working with ranchers on a “payment for presence” plan that would compensate ranchers just for tolerating wolves on the land. That’s in addition to long-standing programs to compensate ranchers for cattle lost to wolves.
The reintroduction effort has been sensitive — some say overly sensitive — to the concerns of ranchers, and some ranchers accept that they don’t have exclusive rights to the public land they lease. Some remain viscerally opposed to wolves.
The narrow views of the anti-lobo ranchers are at the heart of this legislative assault. Testimony in favor of the measures included anecdotes dating to the first release of wolves 16 years ago as evidence of the need for legislative action. Times change, people. Let’s move on.
This legislative “fix” is ostensibly because ranchers can hunt down and kill bears or mountain lions they suspect of killing livestock, but they can’t do that with federally protected wolves. Of course not. Bears and lions are plentiful. Wolves are an endangered species.
Support for the legislation is couched in talk about protecting ranchers from the costly effects of a federal program. But the hard truth is these ranchers likely wouldn’t have ranches if they weren’t using federal land.
Blaming the federal government is an easy sell in this state. When it comes to the wolf-reintroduction program, it’s too easy.
We are all Americans, after all, and we all benefit from efforts to restore and preserve the magnificent wild places and creatures that enrich our state and our nation.
Please Act Today to stop Sen. Gail Griffin’s
anti-wolf bill from moving forward!
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. These are also good talking points for contacting your legislators.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
- At last official count, only 83 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them the most endangered wolf in the world. Senator Griffin’s bills aim to push them closer to extinction. SB 1212 encourages people to kill Mexican wolves, a violation of federal law.
- Sen. Griffin’s proposed legislation will waste taxpayer money on litigation to impede wolf recovery and embarrass the state by attempting to illegally override federal laws that protect endangered species.
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. There are many tried and true methods to avoid conflicts between livestock and wolves. Funds are available to help livestock growers implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict.
- Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Legislation to impede wolf recovery is a slap in the face to the majority of voters who want wolves to thrive.
- 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.
- Wolves generate economic benefits - a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.
Make sure you:
- Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long.
- Thank the paper for publishing the article.
- Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “cows may have been killed by wolves, 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, between 150-300 words.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
- 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.
If you live in AZ, please also contact your Senator directly and tell them politely that you expect them to oppose these bills that embarrass Arizona, waste taxpayer money and fly in the face of overwhelming majority public support for wolf recovery.
You can learn more about this bill, as well as two other proposed anti-Mexican wolf measures, by clicking here.
Thank you for speaking out to save Mexican wolves!
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Photo credit: Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center