For Immediate Release
New Mexico State Game Commission Votes to Support Draft Wolf Plan
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Aug. 24, 2017) – During its meeting today, the New Mexico State Game Commission voted to support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent draft Mexican gray wolf recovery plan.
Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“The current draft Mexican gray wolf recovery plan will not sufficiently improve lobo numbers nor increase their genetic diversity in the wild, two major factors that will help recover this species. It also constrains wolves to an arbitrary boundary, restricting them from roaming safely into suitable, unoccupied habitat. So, we hope that the New Mexico State Game Commission’s vote today is a sign that they are willing to participate in the process to strengthen the plan for the benefit of local communities, landscapes and wildlife.
“No matter what, Defenders of Wildlife remains committed to lobo recovery in the Southwest, and we will continue to innovate proactive coexistence strategies and tools on the ground for local communities to share the landscape peacefully with wolves. Lobo recovery could transform our landscapes just like wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone brought landscapes and rivers back to life.”
Mexican gray wolves, or ‘lobos,’ are the most endangered gray wolf subspecies in the world. The lobos are facing low numbers and a genetic crisis in the wild. Limited genetic diversity in the wild can result in smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction. Releases of captive wolves are critical to increase genetic diversity of the Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
To recover the endangered Mexican gray wolves, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) must:
- complete a legally-sufficient recovery plan with the goal of a healthy, sustainable population of Mexican gray wolves in the wild;
- release more wolves into the wild; and
- extend the Mexican gray wolf recovery areas into suitable habitat north of Interstate 40 (I-40).
Scientists conclude that lobos require at least three linked populations in suitable habitat. Habitat capable of supporting two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. There is an estimated 19 million acres of potential habitat north of I-40 in Utah, Colorado and northern New Mexico. Much of these lands, which were excluded from the draft recovery plan, have low cattle numbers, low road-density and minimal projected human build-out, which translates to fewer opportunities for conflicts than other areas in the West. Defenders of Wildlife works with ranchers in the Southwest and across the country to prevent and minimize conflicts on the landscape through coexistence tools and strategies, including range riders, fladry and radio-activated guard (RAG) systems.
In 2011, after Governor Martinez took office, the governor-appointed Game and Fish Commission voted to withdraw state support for wolf recovery.
In November 2015 governors of the Four Corner States - Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah – all opposed the expansion, release and occupancy of Mexican gray wolves north of I-40 in Arizona and New Mexico and into Utah and Colorado. Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan was formerly the director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Wolf reintroduction has proven ecological and economic benefits. For example, starting in 1995 – after a 70-year absence – wolves sparked a positive effect on the ecological health of Yellowstone National Park. The presence of wolves in Yellowstone has increased the diversity of wildlife, improved the overall health and vigor of elk and deer herds and even enhanced water quality. With less grazing pressure from elk, streambank vegetation like willow and aspen regenerated, creating a habitat for native birds, fish, beavers and many other species. In 2016, 4.26 million visitors enjoyed the park’s landscapes and diverse wildlife, largely made possible by wolf reintroduction. Their visits had a cumulative benefit of $524 million to the local economy.
Scientists predict that if the Mexican gray wolf population in the wild increases its numbers and improves it genetic diversity, we could expect to see the same kind of transformations observed in Yellowstone National Park in Southwestern landscapes.
WHAT’S NEXT: The public comment period for the draft recovery plan ends August 29; FWS' final recovery plan is set to be released by a court-mandated deadline of November 2017.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.