Contacts for members of the media:
- Emily Renn, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Al White, former Flagstaff Vice-Mayor, email@example.com
- Sarah King, Earth Care Commission-AZ SAFE Network, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Roxane George, Mexicanwolves.org, email@example.com
FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Wildlife supporters from across the state, including scientists and activists from the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, Sierra Club, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, rallied Friday at the Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting at Little America to protest the commissioners’ actions to undermine the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction and recovery, and to express their support for the highly endangered wolves.
Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project executive director Emily Renn told the large crowd of wolf supporters, “With only 110 in the wild, Mexican gray wolves are one of the most endangered wolves in the world. They are beautiful, intelligent animals that, given a chance, can help restore the health of our wild lands and keep elk and deer populations in balance. But we need an Arizona Game and Fish Commission that doesn’t just pay lip service to wolf recovery while its actions endanger the wolves’ survival.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has a long history of ignoring the best available science and interfering with recovery of these highly endangered animals, including blocking releases of new wolves into the wild, needed to boost the wolves’ declining genetic health, and asking Arizona members of Congress to remove the wolves’ Endangered Species Act protections. The Commission also pressured the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to loosen restrictions on killing and trapping wolves, to keep wolves from key habitats north of I-40, and to limit the wolf population to a number far below what experts say is needed to reduce the risk of extinction. During the period from 2003 — 2009, when the Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC) led by Arizona Game and Fish managed the wolf reintroduction project, the wild population declined from 55 to only 42 wolves and 2 breeding pairs.
Today, the Commission went a step further to undermine wolf recovery, by voting to ban all releases of adult Mexican gray wolves from the 250 wolves in captivity and to limit new releases, desperately needed to boost the declining genetic health of the wild population, to cross-fostering of pups. Cross-fostering involves moving wolf pups from one litter to another similar-age wild litter in hopes that the receiving pack will take the pups in and raise them as their own. Only two Mexican gray wolf pups have ever been successfully cross-fostered.
Mexicanwolves.org organizer Roxane George said that cross-fostering is one tool for increasing the wild wolf population’s genetic health but it is not an adequate substitute for releasing adult wolves.
“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 Arizona Game and Fish Department is using cross fostering, a difficult, slow technique, to distract people from the fact that they are forcing some of the most genetically valuable adult Mexican gray wolves, ready for release, to age out in captivity,” said George.
Richard Fredrickson, a geneticist who has been on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team since 2011, told the Arizona Daily Sun in May 2015 “Cross-fostering is a tactic, not a plan. In my opinion it’s very unlikely to really address the problem (of species recovery).”
Former Flagstaff Vice-Mayor Al White condemned the Commission’s actions and H.R. 2910, a federal bill recently introduced by Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) that will remove the Mexican gray wolf’s Endangered Species Act protections.
“There are just over a hundred wolves in the wild and Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar wants to do away with their federal protections! Gosar’s extinction bill will place the survival of our native wolves at the mercy of a state commission that stubbornly clings to the same outdated ideas about wolves that resulted in their extinction from the wild in the first place. That’s the definition of irresponsible political posturing,” said White.
In 2010, when there were only 50 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, the Game and Fish Commission directed the Arizona Game and Fish Department to send a letter urging Congress to remove all federal protections for Mexican gray wolves.
Sarah King, chair of the Arizona Faith Network’s Earth Care Commission said, “With so few Mexican gray wolves in the wild where thousands once roamed, our only choices are ‘will we do what’s needed to recover our native wolves, or will we risk their extinction?’ Our moral responsibility to protect and recover these wolves that were exterminated by our own government and are part of God’s creation is clear. Sadly, the Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners seem to be making the second choice.”
George presented the Game and Fish Commissioners with a petition signed by over 5,500 Mexican gray wolf supporters. George said, “The Commission is out of step with Arizonans on wolf recovery. In poll after poll, and meeting after meeting, the people of Arizona have repeatedly expressed overwhelming support for these endangered animals.”
Polling in 2008 showed that 77% of AZ voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction, and 76% agreed that “the wolf is a benefit to the west and helps the balance of nature.”
A 2013 poll showed that 81% of AZ voters agree that “Wolves play an important role in maintaining healthy deer and elk populations” and that “Restoring wolves to forests and wilderness in Arizona will bring a healthier balance to our ecosystem.” The 2013 poll also showed that 81% of AZ voters support restoring wolves to suitable habitat in the Grand Canyon region.
A new poll released in July found that 90% of American voters support the Endangered Species Act.
Call or email Arizona Game and Fish and tell them that their ongoing actions to undermine wolf recovery are unacceptable.
I support the recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves and request that Arizona Game and Fish do the following:
- Stop opposing new releases of captive wolves into the wild and instead work to ensure that releases of adult wolves are expedited to improve the genetic health of the wild population;
- End your advocacy for killing and trapping wolves for preying on elk, going outside of political boundaries, and for livestock conflicts;
- End your advocacy for keeping the wild population down to 300-325 wolves, a number which has no basis in science but will result in wolves above that number being killed or trapped and removed;
- Desist in efforts to delay and obstruct recovery planning.
- Respect the peer reviewed science by recognized experts and stop objecting to new populations of wolves in habitats north of I-40; and
- Honor and fulfill your public trust obligations by representing the best interests of all of Arizona’s wildlife, including keystone carnivores like wolves, all the people of Arizona, and visitors to Arizona from all over the world, who want these wolves to thrive.
Arizona Game and Fish Main Office: 602-942-3000
Kurt R. Davis, Commission Chair — Phoenix http://www.azgfd.gov/Contact5.shtml
Edward “Pat” Madden, Vice Chair — Flagstaff http://www.azgfd.gov/Contact1.shtml
James R. Ammons, Member — Yuma http://www.azgfd.gov/Contact2.shtml
James S. Zieler, Member — St. Johns http://www.azgfd.gov/Contact3.shtml
Robert E. Mansell, Member — Winslow http://www.azgfd.gov/Contact4.shtml
You can also sign the petition here.