WHITE MOUNTAINS — A revised plan to delist the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list is meeting some opposition.
The idea in President Donald Trump’s administration is to turn over management of the wolf recovery plan to states and local tribes.
Some opponents said it is a path to destruction for the species that for nearly 30 years during the last century was almost completely absent from the landscape of the Southwest and Mexico.
In recent years, the howl of the Mexican wolf has again been heard in the mountains of the Southwest. But not everyone has been happy about it.
Some ranchers and private citizens are of the opinion that the reintroduction has been problematic at best and costly for ranchers at worst, especially to beef and other livestock like sheep.
The reintroduction program plan published in 1982 focused on efforts to halt Mexican wolf extinction that included reintroduction in Arizona. A revised plan to what was published in 1982 has just been released.
“The recovery strategy outlined in the revised plan is to establish two Mexican wolf populations distributed within the subspecies’ historical range in the United States and Mexico. This strategy for the Mexican wolf addresses the threats to the species, including human-caused mortality, extinction risk associated with small population size, and the loss of gene diversity,” the plan states. “The Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan has undergone an extensive review through each stage of development and incorporates the best scientific information available today. This revised recovery plan was developed with Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, the Forest Service, and federal agencies in Mexico to enable recovery of the Mexican wolf while ensuring the needs and interests of local communities are fully considered. It includes consideration of geographic distribution, population abundance, genetic management, monitoring and adaptive management, and ongoing collaboration with partners to recover the Mexican wolf in a manner that minimizes effects on local communities, livestock production, native ungulate herds and recreation.”
“It’s a ‘recovery plan’ in name only,” Earthjustice attorney Heidi McIntosh, said. “Without additional habitat and greater genetic diversity, the wolves will continue to teeter on the brink of extinction. The plan provides none of these essential needs.”
Bryan Bird, of Defenders of Wildlife in New Mexico, said the Trump plan is bad for wolf recovery. He said the revised plan was hashed out between June and August of this year, meaning it is too late for there to be any changes during a normal process.
But he encouraged people opposed to delisting the Mexican wolf from the endangered list to call their representatives in government and voice their opposition anyway.
Bird said Earthjustice is considering litigation to oppose the revised plan because they don’t see any alternative to fighting it now. He said the goal is to foster a peaceful coexistence between wolves and humans.
He said that for the most part Arizona has supported the reintroduction program, adding that a lot of resources have been spent to educate ranchers who feel their livelihood is at stake that they are not entirely correct.
“When a rancher loses a cow or something, it takes money out of their pocket. It effects their bottom line. I get that,” Bird said. “But the truth is that predatory losses due to wolves are minuscule compared to illness and other natural causes.”
Earthjustice’s Valerie Halford said the Trump administration refused to listen to thousands of people who opposed the plan when asked to fix it to their liking.
A press release from John Bradley and Jeff Humphrey, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Southwest Region, says the wolf recovery plan is working.
“Mexican wolves are on the road to recovery in the Southwest, thanks to the cooperation, flexibility and hard work of our partners,” Regional Director Amy Lueders said in the press release. “This spirit of collaboration is going to help us meet the recovery goals for this species. States, tribes, landowners, conservation groups, the captive breeding facilities, federal agencies and citizens of the Southwest can be proud of their roles in saving this sentinel of wilderness.”
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 is giving too much control over 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 recovery plan includes reckless delisting criteria for the critically endangered wolf. One criteria for delisitng states twenty-two wolves released from captivity must 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 restricting the wolves to south of Interstate 40 and planning for no natural connectivity with the 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 450 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.
Learn More About the Flawed Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan
~ Read the finalized Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan HERE.
~ Scientists and Wolf Biologists speak out against Recovery Plan
~ Below is the Draft Plan that was released in June of 2017 and "supporting" documents.
Additional Documentation Referenced in Draft Plan: