LAS CRUCES – The Mexican gray wolf would be listed as an endangered subspecies and would continue receiving federal protection even as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would lift such protections for gray wolves in the rest of the country, according to published reports about the draft rules.
If adopted, the draft rules would represent a policy reversal for the Mexican gray wolf and would provide additional pressure on Fish and Wildlife to complete a fresh recovery plan for the lobo.
Fish and Wildlife announced in October it would not provide the Mexican gray wolf with a separate listing as a subspecies. The agency said a separate listing was unnecessary because the lobo was already protected as an endangered species and that a new recovery plan was already being developed.
Environmentalists say the draft rules, first reported by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by The Associated Press, represent a setback for wolves in the rest of the country because management of wolf populations would be left up to the states. Wolves that spread into eastern Washington, Oregon or Colorado, for instance, would not be protected as endangered species under the proposed rule.
In a prepared statement, the Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday declined to comment on specifics of the proposed rule, saying: “The draft proposal is clearly a matter that is still under internal review and discussion, and therefore it is inappropriate . . . to comment at this time.”
The statement said when the proposal is published in the Federal Register, Fish and Wildlife will provide an opportunity for public comment before a final decision is made on whether to adopt the new policy.
Craig Miller, Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, welcomed the proposal to relist Mexican gray wolves as an endangered subspecies because they “need all the protection they can get,” but said stripping federal protections for other gray wolves could increase the danger to lobos that disperse from the Southwest. That’s because it will be difficult to tell the difference between Mexican gray wolves and other, unprotected gray wolves.
“The Service’s actions make protection of Mexican gray wolves much more difficult should they expand into Utah or Colorado and make it unlikely that any wolves will be able to naturally re-establish a presence in the Southern Rockies, a region with excellent suitable habitat where wolves were once found,” Miller said.
But Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, said she was disappointed that federal officials plan to continue providing the Mexican gray wolf with the protections given to an endangered subspecies.
“The (recovery) program has failed,” said Cowan, reached Friday in Florida. “It’s just a disappointment that they (Fish and Wildlife) are going to take care of everyone else, but not us.”
The Mexican gray wolf population numbered 75 at the end of 2012, nearly 15 years after wolves were reintroduced to the Southwest.
Southwest lobos received another boost this week as Fish and Wildlife announced Friday it is in the process of releasing two pairs of wolves into the 4.4-million-acre recovery zone that straddles the border between southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. One pair will be released in the Apache National Forest in Arizona, the other in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. The female wolves in both pairs are pregnant and will soon whelp litters, said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Charna Lefton.
Despite sustained calls for more wolf releases to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population, the Service had released no captive wolves for four years until January. That male wolf was soon recaptured when he did not pair with a targeted female, but he is a member of the pair being released in New Mexico.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said he was “delighted” by news of the releases, but he added: “We want to see a lot more releases, because two new wolf families is not enough genetically.”
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Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
The Service’s decision to delist the greater population of gray wolves makes the protection of Mexican gray wolves much more difficult should they expand into Utah or Colorado. It will be unlikely that any wolves will be able to naturally reestablish a presence in the Southern Rockies, a region with excellent suitable habitat where wolves were once found.
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.
At last count, just 75 Mexican gray wolves, including three breeding pairs, survived in the wild. These native wolves are critically endangered. New releases and additional populations of these wolves are desperately needed for them to thrive. Endangered species protections are critical to their survival. But AZ Game and Fish has consistently tried to undermine the wolves and will continue to do so if lobos become subject to state management.
Express your support of wolves and stress that the majority of Arizona residents support wolves and understand their importance. Polling done by Research and Polling, Inc. found 77 percent of Arizona respondents support the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves. The poll also showed strong majority support for giving wolves greater protection under the Endangered Species Act.
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. Science has repeatedly demonstrated that wolves are keystone carnivores who help to keep wildlife like elk and deer healthy and bring balance to the lands they inhabit.
You can also send a letter to your Congressperson and ask them to his/her influence to maintain protections for wolves currently protected under the Endangered Species Act!
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