Talk about over-reacting.
The last time we visited the topic of endangered Mexican gray wolves in this space was to call for more details of a proposed expansion plan and consultation by federal officials with local communities.
That was back in August, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did agree to at least one public hearing in Arizona and entered talks with state Game and Fish officials.
But some state lawmakers took the expansion plan as a call to arms, and this winter they have introduced bills seeking not only to hamstring or kill off the recovery program but end the entire federal Endangered Species Act in Arizona.
The last was introduced by Flagstaff Rep. Bob Thorpe, who later withdrew that clause after staff officials said it would compromise tens of millions of dollars in federal aid given to the state for protecting endangered species and habitat restoration under their many cooperative agreements. Those programs include the California condor, black-footed ferret, Chiricahua leopard frog, native fish and other species.
He also took out the part about deporting any animal species in a federal recovery program not “cooperatively implemented” with the state, a direct assault on federal authority over endangered species.
But Thorpe did retain a clause in the bill calling on the federal government to establish a compensation fund for cattle losses, then turn it over to the state to be administered on state terms.
Other bills and resolutions would allow state employees for the first time to kill a problem wolf on public land, cap the number of wolves at 100 and relocate them to Mexico. And when the bills are inevitably challenged in court, another bill calls for a $250,000 litigation fund to be set up to defend them.
If the measures above came in response to hundreds of marauding wolves decimating cattle herds, we’d pay attention. But just the opposite true: There are about 80 wolves in the wild and the number of claims made by ranchers for wolf depredation is minuscule. Most cattle are killed by disease and by predators with much larger populations, such as coyotes or mountain lions. But if a cow is killed, there is a compensation fund in place and one proposal calls on ranchers to be paid extra simply for sharing their leased land with wolves.
Further, public opinion is solidly behind the wolves, not the ranchers. Poll after poll shows most citizens believe there is plenty of room on the national forest for cows and wolves with sensible management.
Does that mean we’re satisfied with the management plan to date and the expansion proposal? On the latter, we feel Fish and Wildlife owes residents of communities in the expansion zone (which extends northward to Interstate 40) some answers to specific questions:
— How often would they anticipate that wolves establishing new territories would roam into suburbs and other settled areas?
— How would wolves interact with pet dogs in particular?
— What tactics and strategies could be employed to keep those human-wolf contacts to a minimum?
These are the issues that lawmakers ought to be focusing on as part of diversifying and preserving Arizona’s wildlife heritage. Wolves are part of that heritage, and they deserve a chance to stay.
Please Act Today to stop these
If you don’t live in AZ, you can still help by submitting a letter to the editor.
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 37 Mexican gray wolves were found in AZ, and only 83 were found total in the wild, making them critically endangered. We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to ensure their recovery and not push them closer to extinction as these bills aim to do.
- The 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.
- 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.
- People who care about wolves should call on their AZ House members to oppose anti-wolf measures. Information about how to do that is at mexicanwolves.org.
- 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.
- 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.
- The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Funds are available to help livestock growers implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing the editorial.
- 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.
Please also contact AZ House members 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.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the proposed anti-Mexican wolf measures.
Thank you for speaking out to save Mexican wolves!
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