| For Immediate Release:
March 17, 2003
Contact: Michael Robinson 505-534-0360
More Information: Mexican Wolf Web
NM Senate Judiciary Committee tables "Little Red Riding Hood" bill
The New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee today followed the lead of its House counterpart on March 12 in tabling SB 746 / HB 764, the "Little Red Riding Hood" bill, which attacked the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program by proclaiming that wolves have a "propensity to threaten or inflict death or grievous bodily harm."
The Senate committee's vote effectively kills the bill, which sought to compel federal, state and tribal biologists to sign admissions of liability for "unlawful" behavior by wolves. Such behavior included killing a human, livestock or pet, "threatening" to kill any of the above, or leaving federal lands.
It also would have authorized anyone to "euthanize" a wolf exhibiting such behaviors.
According to testimony at today's hearing and at last Wednesday's, that provision stood for state sanction of an open season against wolves. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos, New Mexico, said that poaching of wolves is already a serious problem and that passing such a law would not immunize poachers from federal prosecution.
Darry Dolan, who lives on an inholding in the Gila National Forest, told committee members the bill is not needed and that wolves were welcome and not a threat. Rinda Metz, a volunteer at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, said that visitors thrill to hear wolves and that some are disappointed if wolves are not present.
No witnesses spoke at today's hearing in favor of the bill, except for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve Komadina (R - Corrales).
Currently, around forty Mexican gray wolves in eight packs roam the Gila National Forest in New Mexico and the adjoining Apache National Forest in Arizona. Two of the packs, with an estimated six wolves, inhabit New Mexico.
In some cases, two generations of wolves have been born in the wild -- representing an important milestone in self-reliance from a population that began in captivity.
The Mexican wolf became endangered because of a decades long U.S. Fish and Wildlife-sponsored binational poisoning and trapping campaign. That campaign ended after passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and the last five lobos still alive in Mexico were subsequently captured alive for an emergency captive breeding program to save the subspecies.
Reintroduction began in March, 1998, and since then wolves have faced threats from federal authorities enforcing rules against preying on livestock and against straying off the two national forests that comprise the recovery area. Four wolves recaptured from the wild over the past two years have been paired up recently in captivity and are due to be released in New Mexico this spring as two new packs.
Those wolves, as their previous experiences in the wild and with humanity have taught them, face a formidable array of dangers, including livestock carcasses that habituate them to consider domestic animals as food, and the odorless boundaries to their recovery area.
They will not face, however, the prospect of state authorities granting every New Mexico citizen a wolf hunting licence. And residents of lobo country in southwest New Mexico who journeyed to Santa Fe to speak their mind are grateful for that.