Albuquerque, NM – Only 75 Mexican wolves survive in the wild, making them the most endangered wolf in the world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will hold one of only two public hearings in the country on its controversial proposed changes to the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program on November 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Albuquerque's Embassy Suites. Biologists and concerned citizens are urging people who care about Mexican wolves and the important role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and game herds are encouraged to attend this important federal hearing. Conservation groups will hold a sidewalk rally before the hearing to show support for the wolves.
"Understanding and commenting on the details of these proposals is critical to the survival and recovery of Mexican wolves, which are still vulnerable to extinction in the wild. This public hearing will be the last opportunity for a long time for concerned citizens from New Mexico to express their views about Mexican wolves and gray wolves nationwide to federal officials," said Joe Cook, a Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico.
Because the FWS proposals exclude most of the modern science that informs recovery of the Southwest's native wolves, and could push the Mexican wolf closer to extinction, the hearing is expected to draw broad public participation. While recent and past polls consistently show the overwhelming majority of the public loves wolves, conservative political organizations antagonistic toward the federal government are pushing for delisting and reduced protections for wolves.
Jean Ossorio, a New Mexico resident and retired schoolteacher who has camped over 330 nights in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, plans to speak up for Mexican wolf recovery at the hearing. “It’s a rare and special experience to see or even hear one of these beautiful, intelligent animals in the wild,” said Ossorio. “Future generations deserve a chance to have that experience and we have a moral and ecological imperative to restore lobos to their important natural role.”
At two other hearings - in Sacramento, California, and Denver, Colorado - the FWS will focus on its proposal to remove most the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act for gray wolves nationwide, even where they are absent, such as in Colorado and Utah. Mexican gray wolves, however, are the only U.S. gray wolf proposed to stay on the list as an "endangered" subspecies, and the Albuquerque and Hon-Dah, Arizona hearings will focus on proposed regulations to revamp the 15-year-old lobo reintroduction program.
David R. Parsons, Wildlife Biologist, and former coordinator of the FWS's Mexican wolf recovery program, and scientists assigned to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team maintain that releases from captivity must be resumed and Mexican wolves must be allowed to live in additional areas with good habitat to secure their recovery.
Parsons, who is now with The Rewilding Institute, an Albuquerque-based conservation think tank, said some of the proposed changes can help, but harmful measures in the proposal will reduce the wolves’ chances of recovery.
“The federal proposal will finally allow releases of captive-bred wolves into the Gila National Forest and allow wolves to roam outside of current boundaries, which scientists have long recommended. But in a sop to politics, the proposal would also stop wolves from reaching important suitable habitats north of Interstate 40 and south of I-10 by ordering their capture and return to the prescribed area. Also harmful, the proposal would limit the wild population to insufficient numbers for survival and open up new loopholes for legal killing of wolves and control of wolves by agency managers.”
The public hearing will last from 6 - 9 p.m., Wednesday, November 20, 2013, at the Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque. FWS has said the hearing room will open at 5 p.m. and people can begin signing up to speak at that time.
Conservation groups will hold a Save the Lobo Sidewalk Rally in the same location prior to the hearing. The sidewalk rally will begin at 5:15, and participants are urged to dress warmly. The groups will also host a room with information, coffee, and children’s art activities, beginning at 4 p.m. For more information, go to mexicanwolves.org.