Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Action Needed! Save the Wolves!
Anti-Mexican wolf legislation is on the House Floor today
If you live in New Mexico, please call your Legislator in the New Mexico State House NOW and Tell Them to Vote NO on House Joint Memorial 48.
House Joint Memorial 48 smears the Mexican gray wolf recovery program at a time when the wolf program needs help, not hindrance. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just issued its official Mexican wolf count for 2009, and it is alarming: there are only 42 Mexican wolves in the wild and only 2 breeding pairs. There are only 15 wolves in New Mexico. The program has achieved less than 50% of the wolves that were expected to be on the ground by now. If any memorial or legislation should come out of the New Mexico legislature on this issue, it should be aimed at helping the wolf program to succeed, rather than blaming it for economic losses.
The allegation that the program has cost millions of dollars is the central problem with this memorial. Whether one supports or opposes the wolf program, no legislator should knowingly vote for a memorial that is inaccurate.
To find your representative in the New Mexico State Legislature, click here: http://legis.state.nm.us/lcs/legislatorsearch.aspx
About House Joint Memorial 48
Summary: Under the guise of guaranteeing equity, this memorial seeks to smear and ultimately to undermine the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with cooperation by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and other state, tribal and federal agencies.
About Mexican gray wolf recovery: Beginning in 1998, endangered Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced to the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, and the Apache National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, as a first step toward eventual recovery. Forty-two wolves now live in the wild, only 15 of them in New Mexico. The population is in decline due in part to federal trapping and shooting of wolves that has led to decreased genetic diversity and resulting inbreeding depression.
The Risk-free Ranching memorial: Despite a nod to reducing conflicts between wolves and livestock, this memorial serves primarily as a vehicle to disseminate mistruths about the Mexican wolf reintroduction program. Contrary to the bill’s premise, wolves benefit local people and boost the southwestern New Mexico economy. The memorial demands additional taxpayer support of the local livestock industry despite the fact that losses to wolves have been and continue to be generously reimbursed.
Livestock owners are already compensated for losses to wolves on public lands: The federal grazing fee, currently set at $1.35/animal unit month, a fraction of the costs of equivalent private-land grazing, is low precisely to offset additional potential expenses in grazing public lands, including costs of predation. In addition, Defenders of Wildlife has compensated for all confirmed livestock losses to Mexican wolves, and for 50% of “probable” losses, after a necropsy by USDA Wildlife Services, and according to what the livestock owner has stated is the value of lost stock. The price set by the rancher – money that has already been reimbursed -- incorporates the lost stock’s “future opportunity costs” that the memorial would seek additional funding to cover. In the Southwest U.S., Defenders has made payments totaling $115,666 for 168 cattle, 10 sheep, and 10 other animals. Most of these payments have been made to ranchers in New Mexico: payments total $67,910 for 94 cattle and 4 other animals. Throughout the U.S., Defenders has paid out nearly $1.4 million to ranchers through its Wolf Compensation Trust. The individual payments that have been made are posted online (the ranchers’ identities are not). The Defenders program, however, is not even acknowledged by the memorial.
The memorial is correct that the federal government has created a compensation program, which should prompt the committee to ask whether there is any need for this memorial at all. The federal program was established in October 2009 and provides funds to compensate for livestock depredations by wolves and for livestock operators to try new grazing management techniques aimed at reducing future wolf/livestock interactions. It is to be managed by a stakeholder group, including local ranchers, sportsmen, environmentalists, and local community members. When this program was first announced, we promptly contacted the fund’s trustee, who reported that $13,000 was immediately available for compensation. The fund has likely grown since then.
Conflicts between wolves and livestock can be prevented: Removing or rendering inedible (such as through applying lime) the carcasses of stock that die of non-wolf causes can prevent wolves from being drawn to areas with vulnerable stock. This measure was recommended in a 2001 independent scientific review of the reintroduction program, but many livestock owners do not remove carcasses in part because they know they will be reimbursed anyway. Future reimburement must be linked to adopting common-sense husbandry measures such as monitoring calving pastures as well as removing carcasses (such as was required in the successful reintroduction of wolves to Idaho and Wyoming). Nevertheless, even with a mixed record of livestock husbandry, peer-reviewed research shows that only four percent of the Mexican wolves’ diet consists of livestock -- and some of that may be from scavenging and not predation.
The Mexican wolf population is dropping and this unique subspecies is trending toward extinction: This memorial is ultimately intended to browbeat the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and dissuade them from taking necessary measures to increase wolf numbers.
Predation rates are minimal: This memorial exaggerates the conflict between wolves and livestock. Published research currently shows that only four percent of the Mexican wolves’ diet consists of livestock, some of which may be from scavenging and not predation. Nationally, only a very small proportion of livestock losses (<>