In the News: Legal Efforts Are Underway to Protect Mexican Gray Wolves
Efforts to restore wolves to the wild continue to face obstacles.
Most recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) granted itself a "recovery permit" to live-capture endangered wolves that enter New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico or the Rocky Mountains.
As a result, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a notice of intent to sue the federal agency.
Michael Robinson is a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. He said wolves don't carry maps, and live-capture is dangerous. It can disrupt breeding pairs and leave pups without their parents, he explained, and in some cases, pups have disappeared and been presumed dead because their parents have been live-captured.
But that's not all, he added, "There have been 18 instances in which wolves have been accidentally killed as a consequence of capture, as well as instances where they've lost legs that have had to be amputated because of trap injuries."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said the permit is not a “kill” permit, but a "take" permit.
It empowers agencies working with the Service to legally handle a member of an endangered species.
FWS spokesman Tom Buckley reported the permit ensures that if an animal is killed, those with permits are protected by the law. FWS has until late February to respond to the notice to sue.
Robinson said getting the Fish and Wildlife Service to offer protection to the Mexican gray wolf could be an uphill climb.
"This is the agency that originally poisoned and trapped the wolves to the brink of extinction. They've been all too quick to set traps or even to send up helicopters and gun down wolves," said Robinson who added that with the 60-day notice of intent to sue, the agency has until late February to respond before the Center for Biological Diversity takes further action.
He stressed that time is of the essence, and not just for FWS.
"The Mexican wolf is a unique animal that's adapted to the arid Southwest and to Mexico. And it's on the brink of extinction. We could lose the Mexican wolf, and we're fighting to ensure that we don't," he explained.
The Center also has filed two lawsuits that are active. One calls for FWS to take steps to save the Mexican wolves that have already been re-introduced into New Mexico and Arizona. The other was filed with the agency's denial of a scientific petition to list the wolf as a sub-species or a distinct population separate from other gray wolves.
Such a listing would provide for specific recovery criteria that would signal when the wolf is no longer on the brink of extinction and can be considered secure, according to environmentalists.
This article was published in the Cibola Beacon.
You can help critically endangered Mexican wolves by submitting 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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tips and talking points 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 the paper for publishing the article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service should manage Mexican gray wolves to ensure their recovery and not risk extinction again. Even though Mexican gray wolves were released to their native lands in Arizona and New Mexico almost 15 years ago, the wild population continues to struggle, not because of any lack on the part of the wolves, but because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to make the changes needed for these wolves to succeed.
- The last population count found only 58 Mexican gray wolves in the wild; the US Fish and Wildlife Service needs to implement many more releases and an aggressive genetic rescue program that frees many wolves into the wild. The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics and in its proposal for 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to only put out one or two more wolves within or next to existing wolves’ territories, and says the new wolves will be killed or removed if they become a “nuisance.”
- There is plenty of room for many more wolves to be released. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area comprises 4.4 million acres (twice the size of Yellowstone National Park), which support an extraordinary array of wildlife and vegetation types. The Fish and Wildlife Service is using the mere presence of livestock as a justification not to release wolves into a wider range of the available area in Arizona, and has refused to change the rule that arbitrarily excludes new wolves from being released directly into New Mexico.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service should increase protections for these wolves, and expedite the Mexican gray wolf recovery planning process. A draft recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan has been developed but politics has stalled the recovery planning process. The draft recovery plan should be put out for public comment.
- 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.Elected officials like Senator Tom Udall should use their influence to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to enact the changes needed to help these wolves.
- Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you.
- 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.
- Mexican gray wolves are unique animals. They are the rarest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America and the most endangered wolf in the world.
- Wolves are a benefit to the West and are essential to restoring the balance of nature.
- 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.
- Submit your letter to the editor here.
Top photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service: This wolf suffered frost bite due to trapping by the USFWS and had to have a leg amputated.
Bottom photo: Captive Mexican gray wolf pup courtesy of Amber Legras
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