For Immediate Release, December 3, 2013
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Hundreds to Testify at Hearing in Northern Arizona Against Removal of Federal Protections for Wolves
Public Also Calling for Mexican Wolves to Be Allowed to Roam More Widely
PINETOP, Ariz.— Hundreds of people from all walks of life will testify at a hearing being held tonight on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take public testimony on management of wolves. The agency has proposed to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across much of the lower 48 states, but to retain protections for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
It has also proposed allowing Mexican wolves to be released into New Mexico and to roam more widely. The agency, however, has failed to follow the recommendation of scientists to allow Mexican wolves to expand into the Grand Canyon and northern New Mexico. Instead Fish and Wildlife has said that any wolves that move north of Interstate 40 will be captured and brought back.
“Wolves can’t read lines on a map,” said Michael Robinson, a longtime wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s clear the Fish and Wildlife Service is not doing near enough to recover Mexican wolves. And it’s disappointing the agency is trying to walk away from recovery of gray wolves in most of the lower 48 long before the job is done.”
At last count in January, only 75 Mexican wolves survived in the Southwest, including a mere three breeding pairs. Scientists have shown that inbreeding caused by a lack of wolf releases to the wild, coupled with too many removals of wolves, is causing smaller litter sizes and lower pup-survival rates in the wild population. Expanding wolf releases to New Mexico would enable managers to diversify the population through new releases and diminish inbreeding. Allowing wolves to roam more freely between Interstates 10 and 40 in Arizona and New Mexico, as is proposed, would likely reduce the number removed from the wild.
A federal effort to develop a new science-based recovery plan for Mexican wolves has stalled. Fish and Wildlife cancelled the last meeting of the recovery team over a year ago after scientists on the team endorsed the creation of two additional population centers, in the Grand Canyon and the southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico.
Beyond the Southwest, Fish and Wildlife is removing protections for wolves across the continental United States, though wolves have recovered to less than 10 percent of their historic range and remain at low numbers or absent from large areas of suitable habitat, including the southern Rockies, Pacific Northwest, California and Northeast.
Tonight’s public hearing will be from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hon-Dah Resort, 777 Highway 260 (at junction with highway 73), 3 miles south of Pinetop, Ariz.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.