Officials from the Four Corners states and Mexico, along with independent scientists, gathered in Arizona this month for a closed-door meeting with the U.S. government that could set the tone for the Mexican wolf recovery effort going forward.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tasked with reintroducing the Mexican wolf in New Mexico and Arizona, is embarking again on an effort to write a recovery plan that will serve as a road map to eventually removing the lobo from the endangered species list.
The four-day meeting on a ranch outside Tucson, confirmed to the Journal by Fish and Wildlife, capped a tense year between the service and New Mexico after the state Game Commission tried to block wolf releases and the service responded by saying it would use its federal authority to go forward with the recovery program anyway.
“The purpose of the workshop was to identify a way forward in our developing of a revised Mexican wolf recovery plan,” said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jeff Humphrey in an emailed response to questions. “We didn’t focus on developing consensus; just gathering of scientific information and identifying where there is consensus and divergence among participants.”
Fish and Wildlife has convened recovery planning teams on three occasions since the original – now badly outdated – recovery plan was released in 1982, but all three efforts fell apart for one reason or another.
The December workshop brought together representatives from state game agencies, field biologists and representatives of Mexican federal natural resources agencies, Humphrey said.
The governors of the Four Corners states – New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah – sent an eight-page letter in November, obtained by the Journal, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Fish and Wildlife Director Daniel Ashe expressing “serious concerns” about how the service intends to develop a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf.
Chief among them are the extent of the range where wolves may roam and the number of wild wolves required before the species may be removed from the endangered list.
“The service does not have any predetermined outcomes for the revised recovery plan, and we are looking forward to working with participants in a collaborative fashion,” Humphrey said. “The issues raised in the governors’ letter will continue to be considered as we move forward with the revision of the Mexican wolf recovery plan.”
The governors also underscored their position that the majority of the recovery effort should occur in Mexico, not the southwestern U.S.
There were 110 Mexican wolves in the wild across parts of eastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, according to Fish and Wildlife’s last count. Wolf releases began in 1998.
Wolf advocates say the wild population, even as it has grown in numbers, is genetically frail due to inbreeding.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said the service should go back to the last draft recovery plan instead of starting the process over again. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should release the 2012 draft recovery plan for scientific peer review and public comment instead of holding closed-door meetings with states seeking to undermine the Mexican wolf recovery program,” he said.
The recovery program has detractors in the ranching and farming industries, and among residents in the rural recovery areas, as wolves – apex predators – have been known to prey on cattle and approach populated areas.
Humphrey said the service plans to develop a “revised recovery plan for the Mexican wolf that is legally sufficient and science-based by the end of 2017.”
Please write a letter to the editor to The Albuquerque Journal today, urging US Fish and Wildlife to prevent the states from standing in the way of wolf recovery.
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. Your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few of the talking points below rather than trying to include them all.
- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a scientific integrity complaint in 2012 saying that US Fish and Wildlife Service 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 state demands to exclude Utah, Colorado, and Northern Arizona from suitable habitat, and attempting to prevent the science subgroup from issuing final Mexican wolf recovery criteria.The state is using out of date information – newer studies support a more northward range for Mexican gray wolves historically. Genetic research has found evidence of Mexican wolf genetic markers in Utah and Colorado, and as far north as Nebraska.
- The Endangered Species Act does not require recovery to occur within species’ historic range. Surely Mr. Bushman knows this.
- It’s hypocritical for the governors to argue that Mexican wolves should be excluded based on whether they are “native.” The state game agencies have no problem moving game species and fish into places they never lived simply for the convenience of hunters and fishermen.
- Recovery of Mexican gray wolves cannot occur wholly in Mexico. There are no large blocks of public lands, there is not a great deal of suitable habitat and prey, and there may not be enough resources to do the job.
- We need wolves, be they Mexican gray wolves or northern wolves, to help repair wildlands. Taking a lesson from Yellowstone and the important role of top predators in ecosystems.
- States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens. State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore and preserve all forms of wildlife, including predators. Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
- For over 10,000 years, grey wolves lived throughout the Southwest and played an important role in shaping the landscape and maintaining balance in nature. Under state management, most subspecies of wolves were hunted and trapped to extinction. The highly endangered Mexican grey wolf is the most appropriate surviving subspecies for recovery in Utah and Colorado, and they cannot recover without help from all four states.
Letter Writing Tips
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service should stop letting anti-wolf state officials obstruct wolf recovery. The last effort to create a Mexican wolf recovery plan stalled precisely because the states were given opportunities to weigh in before the work of the scientific experts was released for public comment. The most recent recovery planning process, which began in 2011, ended amidst allegations of political interference by these same states with the science.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing this excellent article and make sure to reference it in your letter.
- Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published.
- Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, 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, no more than 200 words. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
- 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.
- Submit your letter in to the Editor of the Albuquerque Journal HERE.
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Obstructionist policies that ignore scientific facts have been interfering with Mexican wolf recovery for many years. Here are some past articles that highlight some of the history of the struggle to support a recovery plan based on science and not politics.
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