ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Most of the howls heard at a public information meeting on the Mexican gray wolf hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Saturday afternoon were from environmental groups saying a recently released updated recovery plan for the subspecies doesn’t go far enough to protect it.
“Why is it that the needs of the Mexican gray wolf, in the program that’s for their purpose, are largely not met?” a Tularosa man asked a panel of three FWS officials.
“What we’re trying to do with the recovery of the New Mexican gray wolf is to find a balance,” responded Sherry Barrett, the FWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator. “It’s difficult when you’re re-establishing a top carnivore on a working landscape.”
Around 75 people, many wearing lime green T-shirts emblazoned with, “Wolves Without Boundaries,” attended the meeting at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Albuquerque to listen to information about the plan and ask questions of those who wrote it.
Although most of the opinions represented were from supporters of wolf reintroduction, their concerns sometimes reflected those on both sides of the debate.
Mexico’s involvement in the recovery process was mentioned several times throughout the two-hour question and answer session.
The draft of the recovery plan stipulates that the population of wolves in Mexico, currently at 28, must increase to 170 before delisting can occur.
“Why does our plan rely so heavily on Mexico?” asked Donna Corcoran, adding that the country recently shifted much of its funds allocated to species recovery to the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, of which there are fewer than 30 left in the wild.
Barrett acknowledged that Mexico is “having some financial issues right now,” but he said they are looking for other sources of funding and remain committed to the wolf’s recovery.
She cited the ocelot and Sonoran pronghorn as examples of successful cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico to protect endangered species.
Many participants also voiced concerns over New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish’s “veto power” over the release program.
Game and Fish left the Mexican gray wolf’s Interagency Field Team in 2011, leaving FWS to largely administer the recovery program in the state.
Last year, the state sued FWS to block them from releasing wolves in the state.
“I’ve been to many New Mexico Game and Fish meetings,” said Albuquerque resident Brenda McKenna. “I simply don’t have any confidence at all that they can be a steward of the Mexican wolf.”
Barrett said the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has worked with FWS for the majority of the time Mexican wolf recovery efforts have been underway and the agency prefers to collaborate with states in cases like this one.
“We think this program has a high chance of success,” Barrett said.
Public comment on the plan will close Aug. 29, and the plan will be finalized by Nov. 30.
Show your support for Mexican wolves with a Letter to the Editor today!
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 for writing your letter 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.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required, by law, to incorporate the best available science into its Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Unfortunately, they have scrapped this duty in order to attain the best political deal they could find. They have chosen to make hostile state agencies happy rather than uphold their duty to consider the best available science. The previous recovery planning science team clearly identified what these wolves need, yet those findings are being ignored.
• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to hand the management of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program to the states who have done everything in their power to sabotage the species’ recovery. Arizona game and fish ran the program for six years previously, and in that time they managed to reduce the number of wolves in the wild. The serious genetic problems the wild population is in is a direct result of the mismanagement by Arizona. If this plan is not dramatically changed, it will very likely drive the lobo to extinction.
• The Mexican gray wolf draft recovery plan includes reckless delisting criteria for the critically endangered wolf. The plan allows for delisting the wolf after twenty-two wolves released from captivity reach reproductive age. But just reaching reproductive age does not ensure their genes will be contributed to the wild population. We have seen that poaching is a major threat to individual wild wolves and if these wolves are killed before they breed, the species will still be removed from the endangered species list.
• Mexican gray wolves will need connectivity between wild populations in order to recover. Connectivity would be easy were they allowed to establish in the two additional suitable habitats in the U.S., the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to restrict the wolves to south of Interstate 40 and to establish a second population in Mexico. There is a barrier along large sections of the international border, talk of extending that barrier to an impenetrable wall, and the last wolf who crossed that border was removed from the wild.
• The federal agency charged with recovery of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf has decided to put the onus of recovery on Mexico, despite the fact that this could wipe the species out. Mexico does not have nearly as much public land for the wolf, they have very little enforcement to deal with poaching, and as species shift north in response to climate change Mexican habitat will become even less suitable for wolves.
Make sure you:
• Thank the paper for publishing the article
• 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 from the article, 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, under 350 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.
DO EVEN MORE FOR LOBOS!
Submit comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service before August 29
Hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Public Comments Processing
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803