ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— In the wake of the shutdown of federal offices, citizens will hold their own public hearing Friday on changes to management of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest, and removal of all Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves across the rest of the contiguous United States. Organizers of the “citizens’ online hearing” will set up laptop computers for participants to submit comments directly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 6 p.m. hearing in Albuquerque will be preceded by a 5 p.m. “Save the Lobo” rally.
“People from all walks of life, urban and rural, young and old, want to testify in support of more protections for wolves — not fewer,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Though the government’s cancelling, the public will not be stopped from testifying.”
At the citizens’ online hearing, the public will still be able to comment on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s disastrous proposal to remove protections for wolves nationwide, as well as make some needed changes to management of Mexican gray wolves, which given their highly precarious status are slated to retain protection. These changes include expanding the area in which Mexican wolves can roam and allowing direct release into New Mexico.
Although some of the changes on Mexican gray wolves are a step forward, conservationists are concerned that others will compromise the wolves’ recovery. Ranchers leasing public lands will still be allowed to leave rotting carcasses of non-wolf-killed livestock in open fields, where wolves can sniff them out and feed on them and then be trapped or shot in punishment. Such conflicts recur on a handful of public- and private-land ranches and end up breaking up wolf families and undermining recovery. They also vex neighboring ranchers who exercise greater responsibility yet still suffer depredations because of wolves that first became habituated to livestock because of the carcasses.
Conservationists also are concerned that the Fish and Wildlife Service would commit to trapping any Mexican wolf that ranges north of Interstate 40, keeping the wolves from reaching suitable habitat needed for recovery in the Grand Canyon ecosystem and northern New Mexico.
“If it passes this proposed rule, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be walking away from our country’s wild wolves far, far too soon — abandoning 40 years of wolf recovery. We need to keep protections for wolves across the country, and we need to make sure no changes are made, here in the Southwest, that will let even a single Mexican gray wolf be shot or cruelly trapped unnecessarily,” said Robinson. “The American public overwhelmingly supports wolf recovery, and people from around the country will be in Albuquerque on Friday to tell the Obama administration to keep protections for wolves.”
The rally (5 p.m.) and the on-line hearing (6 p.m.) will take place on Friday at the Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque, N.M.
The Save the Lobo rally will include informative and inspirational speakers on the need for continued protection of wolves. They will include Michael Robinson, who in addition to being a long-time wolf advocate with the Center is the author of a well-received book on the history of federal efforts to exterminate wolves; David R. Parsons, a wildlife biologist who formerly led the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican wolf recovery program; Dave Foreman, a well-known activist, speaker and writer on matters involving wilderness and humanity; Jean Ossorio, a retired schoolteacher who has been rewarded for her weeks camping in the wild with 43 sightings since 1999 of elusive, wild Mexican wolves; and Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York, which helps to raise the captive Mexican wolves eligible for release into the wild.