By Rene Romo
LAS CRUCES — Environmental advocates are bemoaning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to give the Mexican gray wolf a unique listing on the endangered species list, a move they say would have provided the lobo greater protection and a better shot at thriving in the wild.
The decision means that the lobo, smaller than its cousins in the north, will continue to receive federal protection as an endangered species under the current species-level listing of gray wolves.
For wolf advocates who believe that the service’s management decisions have hampered growth of the wild-roaming population of wolves in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico, the status quo is not good news.
“… This decision is a blow to all of us who care about these beautiful animals,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, which in 2009 requested that the lobo be listed as a separate subspecies or “distinct population” so that critical habitat could be designated for the wolf under the Endangered Species Act. WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute also requested the separate listing in August 2009.
“The government has frozen releases of wolves to the wild, is currently trapping a wolf for removal, and now refuses to give the Mexican wolf the special protection it needs,” Robinson said. When Fish and Wildlife first released 11 wolves in a national forest in southeast Arizona in 1998 as part of a hotly debated reintroduction effort, biologists projected there would be 100 wolves in the 4.4-million-acre recovery area by the end of 2006. There were officially 58 wolves between Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2011, according to the agency.
“Everyone agrees the program is struggling,” said John Horning of WildEarth Guardians. “A separate listing could have given the program a fresh start.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service said separate listing as a subspecies or distinct population was not warranted because the lobo is already receiving protection as an endangered species. It also noted that it is in the process of developing an updated Mexican wolf recovery plan, a draft of which is expected to be released for public comment and peer review in 2013.
The recovery plan could result in less restrictive federal management of wolves in the wild and establish broader recovery goals, but such proposals have already been criticized by ranchers and hunters upset by the threat wolves pose to livestock and elk.
TAKE ACTION NOW
A separate subspecies listing under the Endangered Species Act would give the small wild population of Mexican gray wolves more protection, which they desperately need. Benefits could include things like the designation of critical habitat, Forest Service actions to avoid harm to the wolves and their habitat, timely completion of the Recovery Plan, and needed changes in the rules governing the Mexican gray wolf Program.
Please contact the Obama Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service and tell them the Mexican gray wolf deserves a separate listing and science supports it. Tell them you are disappointed in this decision, which is yet another betrayal of wolves and science by this administration.
White House: 202-456-1111
Also, please write a letter to the editor thanking the Albuquerque Journal for this article and supporting greater protections for endangered Mexican wolves.
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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start by thanking paper for publishing the article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Remind readers that the last population count found only 58 Mexican gray wolves in the wild. A separate subspecies listing under the Endangered Species Act would give the small wild population of Mexican gray wolves more protection, which they desperately need.
Point out that Mexican gray wolves deserve a separate listing, both legally and biologically. Mexican wolves are geographically and morphologically distinct from other gray wolves, and under their current "experimental, non-essential" classification, have remained at the brink of extinction in the wild since they were reintroduced.
Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.
Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
Describe the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife. Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.
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Photo credit: Amber Legras