Monday, June 16, 2008

Arizonans back Mexican wolf recovery, feds don't

Lobo is released in Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area by an AZ Game & Fish biologist

TUCSON -- Good news today on a southwestern conservation issue I've worked on for many years -- protection and recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.

Arizonans overwhelmingly support having Mexican gray wolves back in the wilds of their state, with 77 percent of respondents supporting the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves into public lands in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a new poll released today.

“The Mexican wolf has been on the brink of extinction for over three-quarters of century, and its very existence largely depends on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doing the right thing starting now,” said Dave Parsons, former biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This strong showing of support among Arizona residents should translate into modern agency policies and actions in keeping with modern public values to save the lobos from a second extinction in the wild.”

The scientific poll was supported by conservation and wildlife organizations, including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility--Southwest, Arizona Zoological Society, New Mexico Audubon Council and the Southwest Environmental Center. The poll was conducted by Research and Polling, Inc., one of the Southwest’s largest market research firms.

“The Mexican gray wolf has strong and broad-based support among the voters in Arizona. Nearly four of every five Arizona voters support wolf reintroduction in the state. The primary reasons for supporting reintroduction revolve around the belief that wolves belong in nature and are beautiful and unique animals, in addition to being part of the west and our culture or history.” said Brian Sanderoff, President of Research and Polling Inc. “The large majority of Arizonans view wolves in a positive light, believe they help maintain a balance of nature, and they think wolves should receive greater protection under the Endangered Species Act until the population rebounds.”

When asked to choose between two statements, 76 percent of respondents chose “the wolf is a benefit to the West and helps maintain a balance of nature,” compared to 13 percent who opted for “the wolf kills too many elk, deer and livestock and does more harm than good.”

The poll captured residents’ views of different ways to manage Mexican wolves, including:

79 percent believe taxpayer dollars should be used to help ranchers prevent or reduce conflicts, versus 11 percent who believe taxpayer dollars should be used to remove or kill wolves that come into conflict with livestock.

67 percent of Arizonans support giving wolves greater protection under the Endangered Species Act to ensure the population rebounds.

60 percent believe ranchers should be required to remove or make inedible cattle that die of non-wolf causes, for example by applying lime, so wolves are not drawn to nearby live cattle.

Mexican wolves roamed the Southwest freely until a federal predator-control program wiped them out about 80 years ago. Mexican wolves were given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, and their return to their wild homeland began with the release of three family groups of lobos in 1998, followed by additional releases through 2006. Wildlife biologists set a goal of at least 100 wolves, which they predicted would include 18 breeding pairs, by 2006.

The removal and killing of wolves that come into conflict with livestock has resulted in a population decline in three of the last four years. As of the latest population survey, conducted in early 2008, only 52 wolves and three breeding pairs were alive in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico. Wildlife biologists and conservationists have urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to change the way it manages wolves to better prioritize wolf recovery.

The same poll conducted in New Mexico revealed similar strong support for wolves from New Mexicans.

- adapted from RPInc.

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