Mexican Wolf Release Proposal Falls Short: Letter from 22 Scientists, Conservationists, and Wolf Recovery Area Residents Urges Fish and Wildlife Service to Rescue Wolf Program
Nutrioso, AZ – On Saturday, October 27, twenty-two scientists, conservation advocates, and concerned citizens sent comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service telling the agency a new proposal to release wolves into the wild from captivity highlights essential changes needed in the Mexican wolf reintroduction program. The letter, written in response to a draft Mexican wolf “Replacement Release Outline for Arizona 2013,” states that although the release of new wolves after four years with no new releases is needed, the proposed plan is inadequate to boost the wild population, last counted at only 58, and threatens to bring back a management policy that resulted in the death or removal of 92 wolves before it was rescinded in 2009.
According to Russell Winn, Mexican wolf reintroduction area resident and president of the White Mountain Conservation League, “The release proposal shows a disturbing lack of commitment to recovery. The wild population of Mexican wolves is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics and the agency managing the program is proposing to address this by putting out one or two more wolves within or next to existing wolves’ territories, and killing or removing them if they become a ‘nuisance’.”
Winn and the letter’s other signers are urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to instead implement several steps they say are critical to rescue the wolves’ genetics and grow the wild population at the necessary rate.
Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, called the proposal “woefully inadequate,” saying, “For the program to work, they need an aggressive genetic rescue
and release plan that frees many more wolves; they need to change the rules so wolves can be released anywhere within the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, not just in a limited area in Arizona; they need to consider all parts of the recovery area potentially suitable for wolf releases regardless of livestock grazing patterns; and they have to expedite completion of the long-awaited recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf.”
The letter also urged that decision authority for wolf release decisions be restored to the Fish and Wildlife Service as has been ordered by a federal court.
Emily Nelson, Program Director for the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project said, “When we get a proposal like this that is written to accord with a directive from the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to accept releases only to replace wolves illegally killed in Arizona the previous year, and the Pack Management Plan that accompanies the proposal is based on assurances made by the Service to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and AZ Game and Fish is leading the public outreach, it’s pretty clear that the Fish and Wildlife Service is not taking responsibility for making decisions based on the welfare of the wolves.”
Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Initial Wolf Release Arizona Pack Management Plan 2012-2013 (Pack Management Proposal)
USFWS Letter of Assurances to AZ Game and Fish (referenced in Pack Management Proposal)