Wolf advocates show support at regional hearings
Last week over two hundred wolf supporters turned out to public hearings in Arizona and New Mexico to rally and speak on behalf of the imperiled Mexican gray wolf. The number of advocates who attended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) hearings in two relatively remote areas (Pinetop, AZ and Truth or Consequences, NM), was a testament to the dedication of Defenders’ members and wolf supporters in the region, and directly correlated with what the majority of people in the Southwest have already made clear – lobos belong in the region and deserve a real chance at recovery.
With only about 90 Mexican gray wolves and few breeding pairs in the wild, lobos are the most endangered wolves in the world. The hearings were held to take comments on a new proposal that would change the rules for managing Mexican gray wolves. These rules would give the small, struggling population more habitat to roam, but at a steep cost – it would allow more wolves to be killed, and would keep them out of some of the best remaining habitats.
Defenders teamed up with several other conservation organizations to host information sessions and a rally, and helped supporters polish their testimonies for the hearing. We also helped those who weren’t chosen to testify to write and submit comments to the Service. Local lobo lovers and those from as far away as California and New York all made their voices heard.
Between the two hearings, more than 90 wolf advocates were given the opportunity to testify before the Service, outnumbering by a margin of more than two to one those who are unsympathetic to the dire plight of these iconic animals.
Visitors from Colorado spoke about the abundant suitable habitat in their home state, and several people called for allowing Mexican gray wolves to access suitable habitat in the Grand Canyon region. At the hearing in Truth or Consequences, a state senator from Las Cruces, William Soules, was the first to speak. He did so on behalf of both the lobos and his constituents, whom he said have contacted him time and again about their desire to see a better future for Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico.
Many other advocates spoke about camping among wolves and the thrill of spotting tracks or hearing howls, the meaning and significance of wilderness, the ecological importance of predators like wolves, a desire for conservation for future generations, and a need for humans to be able to coexist on the landscape with wolves. Two hunting groups sent spokesmen who understood the ecological importance of wolves in keeping herds healthy and nature intact. And though the comments were as diverse as the people delivering them, they all touched on one common principle: to lose the lobo would a tragedy of our lifetime.
As Defenders’ Director of Southwest Programs Eva Sargent said in her testimony, “the Fish and Wildlife Service has a responsibility as stewards of these endangered animals to save them from extinction… Let’s put politics aside and instead use the science we already have to give Mexican gray wolves a real chance at recovery.”
Many thanks to all of those who rallied and supported the Mexican gray wolf at the recent hearings. If you weren’t able to, there is still time to submit your comments to the Service – tell the Fish and Wildlife Service not to allow more killing, but instead do what it knows the lobos need:
- Complete and implement an updated recovery plan and management rules that are based on science, not politics
- Release more breeding pairs into the wild
- Establish at least two additional core populations in suitable habitat
Courtney Sexton is a Communications Associate for Defenders of Wildlife