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Op Ed: Republicans have been hostile to lobo recovery efforts

Ken Kawata - Las Cruces Sun News - October 21, 2018

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No other U.S. president achieved so much to preserve nature as Theodore Roosevelt did. Watergate scandal tainted Richard Nixon, yet he is one of the most environmentally conscious presidents in history. Unfortunately, their legacies are in jeopardy in the hands of inheritors of their own party.

In this bitterly divided nation, even steps to preserve nature have become highly partisan. Nixon’s landmark legislation, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, made him the champion for nature conservation.

Regrettably, Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., introduced “Common Sense Permitting Act” in June of this year. Current law has some exclusions with no environmental review requirement. “Pearce would expand those exclusions to make the law almost meaningless, endangering our environment,” columnist Peter Goodman wrote in the Sun-News.

Pearce’s fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill have proposed legislation “that would defang the law and, in some cases, explicitly remove some animals from the endangered-species list,” according to Time magazine.

In the Midwest, responding to the proposal to overhaul the ESA, the president of a Farm Bureau noted: “Wisconsin needs greater control over gray wolves.” Such pondering has already taken hold in the Southwest. The Mexican wolf, commonly called lobo, once ranged in the Southwest into central Mexico until it was extirpated in the 1970s, leaving a small number in captivity.

Based on scientific evidence, in 1991 International Union for Conservation of Nature gave lobo recovery the highest need for all gray wolves. Recovery efforts led to returning lobo into a small area in New Mexico and Arizona under powerful oppositions.

Mr. Pearce introduced the “Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act”, which, some writer to the Sun-News noted is for lobo extinction.

Be reminded that the lobo is federally protected under the ESA. In August 2015 the Las Cruces City Council voted to support the ESA; even though it is outside of the municipal jurisdiction, the spirit must be commended.

The gubernatorial camp, however, has no shortage of hostility toward lobo. Saving lobo is one of Ted Turner’s passions, as he maintains a lobo facility in his Ladder Ranch as a part of his endangered species program. The ranch filed a bid to renew permit to hold lobo in captivity.

“That triggered calls for Gov. Susana Martinez to reverse the decision, but ranchers are standing behind the governor. …Under the Martinez administration, the state Game and Fish Department pulled out of the wolf reintroduction program in 2011,” The Associated Press reported. Thus she dutifully follows the party line.

Lobo is our historic heritage, an iconic part of nature and New Mexico’s nature must be saved for future generations. For that reason alone, let us not send Steve Pierce to Santa Fe in the upcoming election.

Ken Kawata is a retired zoo administrator who served on the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan Management Group in the 1990s.

This article was published in the Las Cruces Sun-News