Op-Ed: Game commission isn’t stalling wolf releases
The guest column on March 9, “More wild lobos means we need more releases, pronto,” does not take into account:
(1) the Memorandum of Agreement the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the Arizona Game and Fish Department entered into in March 2018; and
(2) the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, First Revision from November 2017.
Both documents allow for a variety of strategies – cross-fostering among them – to facilitate the recovery of the species and eventually transition from federal management to state management of the Mexican gray wolf. Under the Memorandum of Agreement, and related federal law and regulations, it is the responsibility of the Fish and Wildlife Service to comply with N.M. state permit requirements before releases can occur – permits issued by the N.M. State Game Commission – and comply with any permits so issued. If the Fish and Wildlife Service wants releases other than cross-fostering – such as releases of well-bonded wolf pairs into the wild, as suggested by the guest columnists – the service must apply for that type of release permit and then make its case to the N.M. Department of Game and Fish and, ultimately, the State Game Commission at a public meeting to support its application.
It is not fair to suggest the State Game Commission is a major stumbling block for wolf recovery when all the tools are there for the Fish and Wildlife Service to utilize to accomplish the goal of recovery. That the Fish and Wildlife Service does not choose to make an application for releases of well-bonded wolf pairs into the wild or cannot adequately support its application via a public process is not the fault of the N.M. State Game Commission.
The Game Commission pledged to work in good faith to achieve recovery, as set forth in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, First Revision, and continues to do so. To suggest otherwise is unfair and ignores that, under the Memorandum of Agreement, decisions regarding the release of wolves into the wild are made “cooperatively” between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the N.M. Department of Game & Fish, with the approval of the N.M. State Game Commission. This is an excellent example of “federalism” at work and gives confidence to all stakeholders that the release process is fair, transparent and supported by the best available science.