June 17, 2008
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES— The reintroduction of the endangered Mexican gray wolf has broad support among New Mexico voters, according to a public opinion survey sponsored by 19 conservation groups.
According to survey results released Monday, 69 percent of New Mexican voters said they either strongly support or somewhat support the 10-year-old reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in the Apache and Gila national forests. Twenty-one percent said they are opposed to the recovery effort.
“In polling terms, this is a very large margin,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., which polled 507 registered voters across the state between April 25 and May 11. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
Historically, there has been particularly strong opposition to the wolf program in mostly rural Catron County, which includes ranchers and other residents who live closest to the wolves, but the conservation group poll surveyed voters statewide.
Among other results, the poll found:
- 57 percent supported giving wolves more protection under the Endangered Species Act, compared with 25 percent who were opposed.
- 64 percent said the wolf is a “benefit to the West and helps the balance of nature” while 21 percent say the wolf “kills too many elk, deer and livestock and does more harm than good.”
- 33 percent said they support a controversial protocol that requires the killing or removal of wolves that prey on three or more head of livestock over the course of a year, while 36 percent oppose the rule and 25 percent were neutral.
Gov. Bill Richardson last year called for the suspension of the rule and two wildlife conservation groups in April sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to halt enforcement of the rule until the wolf population grows.
Laura Schneberger, president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association, said she was not surprised there is broad support for the program, but she said the results show support for removing wolves that repeatedly prey on cattle. “That’s going to grow,” Schneberger said.
The Gila Livestock Growers Association has been highly critical of the wolf reintroduction program, contending the animals persist in preying on livestock and increasingly are coming too close to humans.
There were 52 wolves in the recovery area of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico at the end of 2007, a drop of seven wolves from the previous year.
Environmentalists say that aggressive federal management of wolves due to conflicts with cattle and other livestock has caused reductions to the wolf population in three of the last four years.
Dave Parsons, the wolf recovery program’s former coordinator under the Fish and Wildlife Service, said Monday he hopes the survey results influence how the wolf recovery program is managed.
A related survey by Research and Polling of voter attitudes in Arizona showed 77 percent of voters in that state support the wolf reintroduction program. Click here to see the AZ poll results. Click here to see the NM poll results.