By Toni Prothero and Emily Renn
We at the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, a non-profit located here in Flagstaff, read with interest the editorial of Feb. 26, 2016 published in these pages and entitled “Top predator release requires more public education.” Our mission since we were established in 2004 has been to restore wolves to the Grand Canyon region by building public support for recovery through education and outreach. We would argue that there is significant public support already in the region, in part due to the efforts of our organization and others, and that that support is based on knowledge of the benefits wolves bring to ecosystems.
A survey conducted in 2008 by Research and Polling Inc. found that 76 percent of respondents in Arizona agreed with the statement “Wolves are of benefit to the West and help the balance of nature.” While it is true that many of us wolf-supporters are passionate about restoring wolves to the region, it is a passion that comes from listening to what science can tell us about the vital importance of top predators to healthy, balanced landscapes.
Each year since 2005 the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project has done extensive outreach in the region through school and public presentations and tabling at local events in Flagstaff and at the Grand Canyon. Last year alone we reached approximately 20,000 people through our education and outreach programs. We have an informed public, ready and willing to have wild wolves back in our region. The wolf hearing that the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently held in Pinetop was well attended and those speaking were overwhelmingly in support of pending wolf releases, as they have been at every opportunity to address our federal and state officials. In addition, a poll conducted in 2013 of Arizona voters by Tulchin Research found that more than 7 in 10, 72 percent, supported restoring wolves to suitable habitat in northern Arizona.
We agree with the authors that public officials need to tone down the rhetoric, and, we would add, stick to the science. We take exception, however, to the authors’ “go slow” approach. The public accepts wolves and wants to see them recover. In addition, it has been 18 years since the Mexican wolf was reintroduced to Arizona and the population has struggled to gain a secure future. The first-step target of 100 wolves restored to the wild in Arizona and New Mexico set in 1982 was finally met just last year, 33 years later, only to fall below that number this year. Because of delays in new releases, the population of wild Mexican wolves is now unacceptably inbred according to experts. All Mexican wolves alive today are the descendants of just seven Mexican wolves that remained to start the captive breeding program. These factors contribute to the species becoming increasingly highly endangered. It is foolhardy to continue to delay releases and risk extinction, so narrowly avoided before.
Now is the time for more releases.
Toni Prothero is the Education and Outreach Coordinator and Emily Renn is the Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.
This Op-Ed was published in the Arizona Daily Sun.
Please help Mexican wolves with a letter to the editor!
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 for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Don’t try to include all the talking points in your letter.
SUBMIT YOUR LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF
THE ARIZONA DAILY SUN HERE.
Letter to the Editor Talking Points and Tips
- With just 97 Mexican gray wolves remain in the wild today in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, this unique sub-species is teetering on the brink of a second extinction.
- Geneticists have warned for years that the wild population needs greater diversity, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to release new wolves into the wild to improve the wolves’ genetic health.
- For over 3 decades, captive breeding programs in the U.S. and Mexico have worked to maximize genetic diversity so that captive wolves could be released to increase the wild population’s genetic health. But USFWS has released very few of these wolves. The wild population of Mexican gray wolves remains critically endangered and in need of additional populations, new releases to improve the population’s genetics, and a scientifically valid recovery plan.
- Almost 18 years after the first Mexican wolves were reintroduced, there are only 97 wolves in the wild. More wolves are needed to stop inbreeding that researchers suggest may be lowering litter sizes and depressing pup-survival rates.
- The window is closing on fixing the genetic issue, and one of the easiest steps the US Fish and Wildlife Service can take is to release more wolves from captivity, and do it now.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do more — and do it fast — to save the lobo from extinction. In order for Mexican gray wolves to recover fully, they need more wolf releases, a science-based recovery plan and more wolf populations in suitable habitats.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service should stop letting anti-wolf state officials obstruct wolf recovery. The last effort to create a Mexican wolf recovery plan stalled precisely because the states were given opportunities to weigh in before the work of the scientific experts was released for public comment. The most recent recovery planning process, which began in 2011, ended amidst allegations of political interference by these same states with the science.
- 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.
- States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens. State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore andpreserve all forms of wildlife, including predators. Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
- Enough is enough. The Service needs to assert its authority and recover the Mexican gray wolf.
- 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.
- Polling shows that the majority of voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction.
- The likelihood of a person being hurt by a wolf is almost non-existent. In rural areas, people are far more likely to be harmed by things accepted as part of daily life, such as domestic dogs, livestock, or off-road vehicles. Mexican wolves are small, weighing 50-85 pounds, and tend to avoid people.
- Wolves generate economic benefits – a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.
Letter Writing Tips
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing this article and make sure to reference it in your letter.
- Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published.
- Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, but”¦” Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
- Keep your letter brief, no more than 200 words. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
- Provide your name, address, phone number and address. The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
SUBMIT YOUR LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF
THE ARIZONA DAILY SUN HERE.
Don’t stop now – Do MORE for Mexican wolves