SANTA FE — More than 250 people gathered at the state capitol Wednesday to protest roadblocks Gov. Susana Martinez has erected to saving endangered Mexican gray wolves from extinction. The boisterous crowd called on the governor to allow wolf releases from captivity into the wild to address the lack of unrelated mates.
Under Martinez, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May and obtained an injunction barring the federal agency from releasing wolves into the wild in the state. The federal government and conservation organizations have appealed that injunction, but while the appeal is being decided the Mexican wolf’s genetic plight is worsening.
“Mexican wolves don’t have the luxury of more time,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that organized today’s protest. “Gov. Martinez should reconsider whether she wants the extinction of the Mexican wolf to be part of her legacy.”
At last count, one year ago, the wolf population in southwestern New Mexico and eastern Arizona included just six breeding pairs. Results from a new count are expected this week.
“The genetic problems our wild wolves are experiencing could be solved by more releases,” said Maya Rommwatt of Lobos of the Southwest, which maintains the informational website mexicanwolves.org. “A majority of Gov. Martinez’s constituents want the wolf recovery program to succeed.”
Because of a paucity of previous releases, as well as federal trapping and shooting of wolves on behalf of the livestock industry — including two wolves trapped last week in Arizona — each wolf in the population is related to every other wolf as if they were siblings. The inbreeding is resulting in smaller litters and pups that die before they mature.
If this population is to survive, and the Mexican wolf as a subspecies to eventually recover, unrelated wolves from captive-breeding facilities must be released into the wild.
Scientists have been urging as far back as 2001 that the pace of wolf releases increase significantly, at first to prevent and now to ameliorate inbreeding. The reintroduction program began in 1998, and in three years the Clinton administration released 50 wolves from captive-breeding facilities. The Bush administration released 42 wolves, while the Obama administration, despite the wolves’ worsening genetics, released just 10 individuals, the majority of which are now dead or back in captivity.
In 2015, after conducting public hearings overflowing with wolf supporters, the Fish and Wildlife Service gave itself the authority to release captive-bred wolves into the Gila National Forest, but Gov. Martinez’s injunction has temporarily invalidated that authority.
This article was published in the Silver City Sun-News.
Show your support for Mexican wolves with 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 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.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
“¢ Time is running out for the Mexican gray wolf. Governor Martinez needs to stop blocking science-based recovery and listen to her voters. By not allowing releases of wolves into the wild, she is driving the lobo to extinction.
“¢ Inbreeding is causing lower pup litters and lower survival rates for pups. The genetic problems Mexican wolves are experiencing can easily be relieved by releases of captive wolves to the wild, but Governor Martinez’s game commission has blocked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from doing its job to recover the lobo. They should stop blocking science-based recovery.
“¢ The captive population of Mexican gray wolves has enough genetic diversity that more releases of wolves could save the wild population from inbreeding, but more releases must happen, and quickly.
“¢ A majority of voters in New Mexico want to the recovery program to succeed. Governor Martinez would gain more support from voters by working with the recovery program, rather than against it. In a 2013 poll of registered voters, 87% of both Arizonans and New Mexicans agreed that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.” 83% of Arizonans and 80% of New Mexicans agreed that “the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”
“¢ At last official count, only 97 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild, making them one of the most endangered wolves in the world. The wild population declined 12% since last year’s count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to release only one family in 2016 is sadly inadequate to the need to increase the numbers and genetic health of endangered lobos in the wild.
“¢ Scientists 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.
“¢ 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.
“¢ We have a moral, economic and scientific responsibility to restore endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf.
Make sure you:
“¢ Thank the paper for publishing the article
“¢ 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 from the article, 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, under 300 words
“¢ Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
“¢ 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 Silver City Sun-News here.
Thank you for speaking for Mexican gray wolves!