Editorial: Our View: A proposed rule makes it too easy to kill or remove Mexican gray wolves for acting naturally.
The federal agency charged with restoring this endangered predator to the wild wants to retain a death penalty for wolves that kill livestock and impose a new capital offense for eating too many deer, elk and other wild ungulates.
What are the wolves supposed to do? Call out for pizza?
The proposed rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn't all bad.
It would vastly expand the wolves' range from a relatively small area straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border to span both states from Interstate 40 south to the Mexican border. Much of this is not suitable wolf habitat, but the expansion sets the stage for establishing new wolf populations.
The proposed rule also would allow reintroduction of captive-bred wolves into new areas, adding badly needed genetic diversity to the wild population. This month, six wolves were released into the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. But there are still more Mexican wolves in captivity than in the wild.
A bigger wolf footprint could result in more conflicts with human activities, so it may make sense to expand the circumstances under which wolves can be removed.
But, gee whiz.
Some ranchers have opposed the wolf reintroduction effort since it began in 1998. The killing and recapture of wolves on their behalf helped keep the wolf population lower than anticipated.
A reimbursement program pays ranchers for any cows the wolves eat. But there is no requirement that ranchers remove livestock carcasses or treat them with lime so wolves won't scavenge and acquire a taste for beef.
The proposed rule does nothing to change that. Instead, it will make it easier to target wolves for attacking livestock and domestic animals.
What's worse, the new rule also includes a provision to kill, capture or relocate wolves that have "an unacceptable impact" on deer, elk or other game populations. The same Arizona and New Mexico wildlife agencies that issue hunting licenses get to say if wolves are eating too much game.
The conflict-of-interest meter is sparking and flashing. Hunters are a core constituency of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. A wolf's dinner is their sport trophy.
The Mexican wolf reintroduction effort serves a long-standing goal of preserving and restoring endangered species, and reflects a shared national value for species diversity.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment on the proposed rule change until Sept. 23. More information is available at fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf.
Two public hearings are scheduled. One is [6-9] p.m. Aug. 11 at the Hon-Dah Conference Center in Pinetop. The other is in Truth or Consequences, N.M. [Aug. 13th] Few Arizonans will be able to travel to these remote locations. More hearings should be scheduled in urban centers.
Mexican wolves are the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America. They deserve protection that respects the value they bring to the ecosystem.
This editorial was published by the Arizona Republic.
Related articles from the AZ Republic:
BAHR: Rule makes it too easy to kill wolves
OUR VIEW: State has wolves in its crosshairs
Submit a letter to the editor responding to this article and influence decision-makers and thousands of your fellow citizens. Tips and talking points are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.
- Start by thanking the paper for this editorial.
- US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) should move forward with allowing new wolves to be released throughout the larger area proposed. The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered mammal in the U.S. with only about 83 in the wild. Additional wolves must be released into the wild now to increase the genetic health of the species. Numerous wolves are in captive breeding facilities around the country, prepared for, and awaiting, release.
- USFWS should not allow more killing of critically endangered wolves. The draft proposal will push Mexican gray wolves towards extinction by allowing many more of them to be killed under all kinds of justifications. With fewer than 90 in the wild, every wolf is important. These native lobos need more protections, not less.
- Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and New Mexico 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. People who care about wolves have an important opportunity to speak out for their recovery through September 23, 2014. Comments can be submitted electronically here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056-6056. More information can be found at mexicanwolves.org.
- Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. USFWS must change the rules that do not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery.
- Additional populations of Mexican wolves are necessary to their recovery and genetic health, as is the ability for wolves to move between populations. Capturing and moving wolves because they roam beyond an artificial boundary is always a risky business that can result in death or trauma to the wolf.
- The USFWS should designate Mexican gray wolves as essential. By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” the USFWS ignores science and the reality of 16 years of experience with reintroducing wolves. The 83 wolves in the wild have up to four generations of experience in establishing packs and raising pups and are over 22% of all of the Mexican wolves in the world.The fourth generation wild lobos are not expendable and are essential to recovering this unique subspecies of wolf.
- The USFWS needs to quit stalling and complete a comprehensive recovery plan. USFWS admits that their 1982 recovery plan is not scientifically sound and does not meet current legal requirements – yet in its proposed rule USFWS continues to emphasize a woefully inadequate population of only 100 wolves in the wild, ignoring the best available science.
- Thank the paper for publishing the article.
- Do not repeat any negative messages from the article, 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.”
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