A Tucson-based conservation group sued the federal government Wednesday to speed reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity contends that officials have failed to respond to the group's 2004 petition for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act on recommendations made by a panel of scientists engaged by the government.
The group filed its lawsuit, naming Fish and Wildlife as well as the U.S. Interior Department, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. It says the wolf population has grown by just three in the past eight years.
While the reintroduction program calls for a population of at least 100 in the species' historic range, there are now an estimated 58 Mexican gray wolves in the forests of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the center, said lack of population growth can compromise genetic diversity and result in smaller litter sizes and increased mortality among pups.
"The Mexican gray wolf remains on the brink of becoming extinct, and its genetic diversity is declining dangerously," Robinson said.
Mexican gray wolves, native to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, were hunted to the brink of extinction and gained protection under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s.
As part of the recovery program, the government began releasing captive-raised Mexican gray wolves into the wild in 1998.
The lawsuit says federal officials have failed to respond to the center's 2004 petition calling for Fish and Wildlife to take action on three recommendations that a scientific panel made in a report prepared for the agency in 2001 after a three-year review.
The recommendations in question: allowing wolves to establish territories outside the designated recovery area; providing direct reintroduction of wolves into a secondary recovery zone; and requiring livestock operators to remove livestock carcasses that would attract wolves.
When Fish and Wildlife initially didn't respond to the petition, the center filed suit in 2007. Robinson said the agency began working on the recommendations, including holding public meetings, but has done nothing since.
"It's put the wolf population in terrible jeopardy," he said.
A Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Albuquerque said he hadn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment. An Interior Department spokesman in Washington said in an e-mail that the department doesn't comment on open litigation.
Some of the publications this story was published in are listed below along with contact information for letters to the Editor.
PLEASE SUBMIT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THANKING THE PAPER FOR THIS ARTICLE AND CALLING ON THE US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO RELEASE MORE WOLVES INTO THE WILD.
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 this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health, especially now.
Remind readers that, at last count, just 58 wolves, including five breeding pairs, survived in the wild. The wild population is extremely small and vulnerable to threats such as disease, inbreeding, or natural events. The USFWS should end the freeze on new releases of captive wolves into the wild.
State that the USFWS needs to change the rule that prohibits releasing wolves into New Mexico if they have not previously lived in the wild. The USFWS has for years been sitting on the Environmental Assessment that would make changing this problematic rule possible. Allowing direct releases in New Mexico will give wildlife managers the flexibility to get more wolves on the ground, regardless of unexpected events like forest fires. It will allow them to choose the best places for releases to succeed. And it will give these important animals a much better chance at recovery.
Advocate for a new, science-based recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan; the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be doing all in its power to expedite release of a draft plan based on the work of the scientific subcommittee. Development of a new recovery plan that will address decreased genetic health and ensure long-term resiliency in Mexican wolf populations must move forward without delay.
Inform readers that obstruction by anti-wolf special interests and politics has kept this small population of unique and critically endangered wolves at the brink of extinction for too long and can no longer be allowed to do so.
Say that to reduce livestock-wolf conflicts livestock owners should be required to remove dead livestock from public lands or render the carcasses inedible (by applying lime). Dead livestock left lying around on the landscape can lead wolves to become habituated to domestic meat.
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.
Please send us a copy at email@example.com as well to help us track actions being taken for the wolves.
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves!
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Photo courtesy: Amber Legras