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For Immediate Release, March 25, 2009

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017

Congress Approves Legislation to Compensate for Livestock Losses to Wolves

Measure Would Also Fund Non-lethal Depredation-prevention Projects

SILVER CITY, N.M.— A five-year, $5-million demonstration project involving federal compensation for livestock losses to wolves — along with federal funding for non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock losses to wolves — passed Congress today as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R.146).

The Center for Biological Diversity hailed the measure for its potential to significantly reduce federal shooting and trapping of endangered wolves, but also warned that regulations to be written for the new law, if not carefully crafted, could waste taxpayers’ money and not necessarily save any wolves’ lives.

“This demonstration project could save many wolves’ from being gunned down from the air by federal hunters or trapped and either killed or taken into captivity,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The “Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Project,” inserted into the bill by senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Barrasso (R-WY), would provide states and Indian tribes with $1 million annually for five years. The money would be divided equally between funds to assist livestock producers in undertaking non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss due to predation by wolves, and compensating livestock producers for livestock losses due to such predation.

The secretaries of the departments of agriculture and the interior are charged with establishing criteria and requirements to implement the program. States and tribes must designate an administrating agency and come up with matching funds.

If the rules aren’t written carefully, Robinson warned, it is possible that the compensation provision could serve as a disincentive to effective measures that would keep wolves from preying on livestock.

“If this is mismanaged,” Robinson said, “we could see the return of reports that wolves are being baited into preying on livestock so that livestock companies can get compensated and the wolves get removed.” In December 2007, High Country News reported on one such livestock corporation in New Mexico, owned by a foreign businessman, which allegedly baited wolves by bringing a cow about to give birth to the vicinity of a wolf den and branding and bloodying her there.

The cow and newborn calf were killed, and an endangered Mexican gray wolf was in turn shot by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services predator-control agency. The wolf’s mate and pup subsequently disappeared and are believed dead. The company’s representatives denied the allegations, and no charges were ever filed.

“We hope secretaries Tom Vilsack and Ken Salazar will promulgate regulations that ensure that compensation is tied to effective measures to deter wolf predation on stock,” said Robinson.

One such provision, recommended by independent scientists for the Southwest where Mexican wolves roam, is now proposed by the Apache National Forest in Arizona: The removal of carcasses of livestock that have died from non-wolf causes so that wolves are not drawn to areas of vulnerable stock. The carcasses of cattle, horses, and sheep that die from disease, poisonous weeds, starvation, and other causes can either be hauled away or destroyed through fire, highly corrosive lime or even explosives, depending on local conditions.

The Center for Biological Diversity will submit comments to the government to maximize the potential of the new law helping to save endangered wolves.

“We hope the government recognizes that wolves on our public lands are not a luxury to be foregone when the political opposition of the livestock industry gets too intense,” said Robinson. “Wolves are the engine of evolution and help keep the balance between predator and prey, and even between prey animals and the vegetation they eat. A compensation program should ensure that wolves be allowed to expand their ranges back to ecosystems from which they were deliberately exterminated.”

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