In the News: Revised rules let Mexican wolves roam expanded territory
- Expand the area for wolf release from a small portion of the Blue Range in Eastern Arizona to an area of 12,507 square miles spanning Central Arizona to western and southwestern New Mexico. Among other forests, it includes all of the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.
- Expand the area that wolves can occupy from the 7,212-square-mile Blue Range Recovery Area to three zones covering 153,853 square miles. That vast new area is bounded by I-40 on the north, the Mexican border on the south and the California and Texas borders on the west and east, respectively.
- Increase the goal for a wild wolf population from 100 to a range of 300 to 325. The number is likely to be increased when a recovery plan is written. The most recent census in 2013 pegged the wild wolf population at 83.
- Clarified that officials of the federal Wildlife Services program — which can kill predators known to be damaging livestock — won’t violate the law if they kill a Mexican wolf “while conducting official duties associated with predator damage management activities” involving other species.
- Set up a complex, detailed process to allow the Arizona and New Mexico game and fish departments to remove, relocate, transfer to Mexico and legally kill wolves if it’s shown they constitute an “unacceptable impact” to deer or elk. The state agencies must provide detailed data supporting their concerns and their plans, and obtain outside peer reviews.
Talking points specifically about the rule change:
- New management rules for endangered Mexican wolves have some of the changes needed but other provisions that set a low cap on numbers, allow more killing of these wolves and keep them from habitat above I-40 will prevent recovery.
- A good change in the new rule is that it expands the area where new wolves can be released into the wild where they belong. 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.
- Expanding the area where the wolves can live is another positive change, but there should be no boundary at I-40. The boundary set in the new rule will keep Mexican wolves from establishing new populations in the areas north of I-40, which scientists say is necessary to their recovery.
- There should be no cap on the number of Mexican wolves allowed to live in the wild.Top carnivores like Mexican gray wolves play an important role in ecosystem restoration and will balance themselves with their prey as they did for millennia before humans intervened.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service should focus on increasing the wild population’s genetic health and moving the wolves towards recovery, rather than promising that lobos can be killed if they increase beyond an arbitrary number.
- USFWS should not allow more killing of critically endangered wolves. The proposal will push Mexican gray wolves towards extinction by allowing many more of them to be killed under all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with science or recovery, including for eating their natural prey to survive. With so few in the wild, every wolf is important. These native lobos need more protections, not less.
- Wolves need freedom from boundaries. Given room to roam, the wolves will establish themselves in suitable areas with adequate game. The USFWS proposal does not allow wolves to establish new packs and populations in additional areas that are essential to their recovery.
- The USFWS should designate Mexican gray wolves as essential. By labeling all of the wild wolves as “nonessential” in the new rule, 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 it has not moved forward with recovery planning and the new rules ignores recommendations from scientists on the recovery planning team.
- Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
- Polling has shown consistently that the vast majority of Arizona and New Mexico voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.
- 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.
- Mexican gray wolves are unique native animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and one of the most endangered wolves in the world.
- 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
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