SILVER CITY — More than 30 Mexican gray wolf enthusiasts and interested residents stepped into the shade at the Little Walnut Creek Picnic area for the 15th Anniversary Lobo Birthday Party on Sunday.
Featuring guest speaker Dave Parsons, carnivore conservation biologist and former US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, and live music by the Silver City String Beans, the event was held by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.
According to the group's website, the Alliance is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico's wild lands and wilderness areas.
Before his speech, Kim McCreery, Regional Director and Staff Scientist for the Alliance had visitors welcome Parsons with a howl.
Parsons was chosen as guest speaker because the event was held to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Mexican gray wolf's reintroduction project, which Parsons personally jump-started.
Parsons said he got the job in 1990 when he discovered that the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Service had done nothing to help reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf, which it was legally required to do since the wolf's identification as an endangered species 14 years earlier in 1976.
He held the position of Recovery Coordinator from 1990 to 1999. In 1998, he said he saw the Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduce 11 Mexican gray wolves.
Parsons took the opportunity to give a brief history of the reintroduction efforts, which he believes have made missteps since his retirement.
"The main reason we don't see more wolves is that the government has been dragging its heals and making choices that do not lead to successful reintroduction," he said.
He said that the biggest misstep was in 2004 — after a jump from 11 to 55 wolves since 1998 — when the Fish and Wildlife Service handed control of the reintroduction to a six-state governing body.
By 2008, the number of wolves had dropped from 55 to 39. Then, seeing the problem, the Fish and Wildlife Service took back the reigns and the number has risen again to 75.
"The agency also receives a lot of pressure from special interest groups," Parsons said. "A lot of the livestock groups, but also the hunting groups. They can't look at things ecologically and see that the wolf could actually benefit the well-being of the game they hunt. I guess they're afraid of the competition."
McCreery was very happy with the event.
"It's clear that we have a lot of people here who really care about and want the wolf to succeed," she said. "They want to be informed. They're asking intelligent questions and, here, getting intelligent answers."
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 decision-makers. 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
15 years after they were reintroduced, the wild population of Mexican wolves is still at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. The last annual population count found only 75 Mexican gray wolves in the wild. While the recent release of four wolves is a good start, it is not enough to make up for the preceding four year moratorium on new releases. Many more releases are needed to increase the wild population’s genetic health and ensure their ability to persist in the wild.
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 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. These changes include removing boundaries that limit the wolves’ movement and enabling new releases throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.
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 native 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.
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