For Immediate Release, May 22, 2008
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017
David Parsons, Rewilding Institute, (505) 908-0468
Congressional Testimony Reveals Political
Interference in Mexican Wolf Management:
Former Recovery Coordinator Exposes Hijacking of Recovery Program
WASHINGTON, D.C.— The House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Wednesday from retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons that political interference in management decisions was to blame for the low numbers of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
At the hearing, entitled “The Danger of Deception: Do Endangered Species Have a Chance?,” Parsons spoke about a “process within a process,” in which a 2005 public comment period on the five-year review of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program was interrupted by two private meetings between senior regional officials of the Fish and Wildlife Service and livestock interests, arranged at the request of Representative Steve Pearce, R-N.M.
After the Pearce meetings the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a conditional moratorium on releases of new wolves into the wild, despite the fact that the wolf population had dropped by 20 percent during the previous year. (The moratorium ultimately did not take effect, because a minimum number of breeding pairs did not exist.)
In addition, the suspect “process within a process” helped persuade the Fish and Wildlife Service to adopt its Mexican wolf control protocol, SOP 13, despite warnings by independent wolf scientists that federal shooting and trapping of wolves should be reduced and not increased in order to comply with the law.
As predicted by the scientists, SOP 13 increased mortality and undercut population growth. It has resulted in the stagnation of the endangered wolf population at around 50 animals. The wolf population was intended to reach over 100 animals by the end of 2006.
“The Mexican wolf is not on a path to recovery because adaptive management has been turned on its head,” says Parsons, who now represents the Rewilding Institute, a conservation think tank based in Albuquerque.
“This congressional oversight hearing shines a bright light on the unscrupulous machinations that result in dead wolves and orphaned pups from North America’s most imperiled mammal,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Mexican wolf was exterminated from the wild by a U.S. government poisoning and trapping program, was saved by captive propagation, and was reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico in 1998. A count at the end of 2007 revealed 52 wolves and just three breeding pairs — a lower number of wolves than was found at the end of 2003, and the same number of breeding pairs.
A lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2006 has resulted in an ongoing federal rule-change process with the potential to reform wolf management, but that process itself may be vulnerable to political manipulation. The Center is closely monitoring the Bush administration’s moves.
Parsons’ testimony, submitted for the record, can be read on the House Natural Resources Committee’s Web site at: http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/images/Documents/20080521/fc/testimony_parsons.pdf.