Friday, June 10, 2011
Wildlife Advocates in Las Cruces Call for Better Protection for Wolves But Game Commission Suspends Program
Click for photo album
Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.
Note: Despite this demonstration and major support from New Mexicans in many walks of life, the New Mexico State Game Commission voted unanimously today to suspend the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction program in the state.
A large group of supporters of wildlife protection rallied outside the at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces Wednesday prior to a field meeting of the New Mexico Fish and Game Commission. The gathering urged the Commission to take a greater role in protecting the Mexican gray wolf in southwestern New Mexico. Only a small population of about fifty wolves survive in the wild, concentrated in the natural habitat of the Gila National Forest.
State Representative Antonio Luján of Las Cruces (D-35) addressed the gathering from the rear bed of a pickup truck outside the Museum prior to the Commission's field meeting. "As you know the Mexican Gray Wolf is on the brink of extinction, only about fifty remain in the wild, and yet the fish and game service continue a policy of hunting and trapping. In recent times no wolf has been shot or trapped in the wild for three years. This shows that that a program of hunting and trapping is unnecessary."
"No wolf has been shot or trapped in the wild for three years," Luján said. "This shows that that a program of hunting and trapping is unnecessary. The fish and wildlife service should continue to work to reduce the conflict between wolf protection advocates and owners of livestock. Both belong in the Southwest. Wolves are essential to the ecosystem. It is vital that they be protected under the endangered species Act. The recovery and protection of wolves should be based on science and not politics," Luján said.
Luján poined out that, "Less than 1% of all livestock loss is due to wolves. Most is caused be disease, accidents and bad weather." He urged the Fish and Game Commission to take a more proactive stance in protecting the wolf. "Once the grey wolf population is restored, scientists have shown they will play a central part in the overall well being of the southwest ecology, just as the restoration of the wolf population has resulting in many positive changes in Yellowstone National Park," Luján said. "Wolves have a right to the ecosystem, and we should be supportive of that."
Carol Fugali, a resident of the Gila Valley outside Silver City, said her family chose to move to the Valley because of the rich biodiversity and quality of life of both the forest region and its neighboring human community provide eleven years ago. She told the crowd that her family has been "both thrilled and pleased to witness the reintroduction of the Gray Wolf into the Gila Valley first hand. "Our family members are avid hikers and backpackers," she said. "As neighbors of such a rich environment, we understand how important it is for all of us to be grounded as human beings with such a rich community environment."
To protect that natural heritage of her region, Fugali urged the Game Commission members to "allow the natural systems to evolve," adding, "our natural systems are far superior to any human management system."
Jim Bates, a Las Cruces area sportsman who also addressed the crowd outside the Farm and Ranch Museum, urged caution in implementing a gray wolf protection policy. "While I understand and support the reintroduction and protection of wolves," Bates said, "we need to remember that our wild areas are also important to others. There are many hunters and sportsmen who are uneasy about the gray wolf protection program and therefore oppose it. I do stand here speaking for those sportsmen who understand that the Mexican Wolf should also have its place in the natural areas that have always been its home. Wolves belong and can co-exist with the varying interests of man," Bates said.
""The reintroduction of the wolves should go on," Bates continued, "but in making these statements, I want to also make it clear what the expectations of sportsmen will be. Sportsmen around America are the reason that many of our wilderness protection programs exist today. So, I caution that there are those who wish to use the protection of wildlife as an excuse to remove hunters from the equation." Bates called supporters of the protection of wolves not to support "an extreme protective agenda," and let "their emotions get ahead of reality."
Janet Blurton, the owner and operator of KOA Campground in Silver City, told the gathering that she had left a job in the city for a better quality of life near the National Forest, and built a thriving business by bringing people together with the wilderness. "Imagine how good for business, mine and those of my neighbors in the community, a healthy wolf population in Southwestern New Mexico can be," she said. "The reintroduction and protection of wolves is part of a big picture, and we are all a part of that."
State Representative Luján called on advocates of both sides to act with civility on the issue. "Just in general," he said, "I have a concern about increasing polarization. We need to be reasonable. As a community and a nation we need to find common ground and engage in reasonable dialog. We need to retain respect for one another," Luján said.
Wednesday's rally was supported by the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces, among others. Many of the attendees remained to give testimony urging the New Mexico Fish and Game Commission to act for protection of the remaining wolf population.
To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.
The 2011 Statistical Abstract of the United States shows that nationally Anglers outspend Hunters $42 Billion to $23 Billion. Wildlife Watchers spend $46 Billion. The Yellowstone wolves, the Zion National Park/North Creek cougar study, and other recent scientific studies show that apex predators such as wolves and mountain lions improve habitat and wildlife diversity, including riparian areas and stream beds for fishing. Yet, as in many states, the wildlife departments and commissions support the minority that kill and remove what the majority want to see and are willing to pay to see.
Anglers seem to identify with hunters, against their own interests. Perhaps anglers enjoy sitting on a barren eroded stream bank, getting no bites, enjoying the quiet of silent forests. What enjoyment would there be to sit in the shade of diverse plant life, listening to the birds, having a stream stocked naturally by fish that have habitat to reproduce prolifically?
Perhaps the Game Commission wants to protect the citizens from hoards of wildlife watchers that tromp the woods with binoculars; that fill the hotel and motel rooms, and that take all the tables in restaurants, leaving no room for the locals who don’t want to eat or sleep at home? Who needs that?
I hope that New Mexico will put its Game Commission in charge of Art as well. I would love to buy a tag to the O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, and walk out with a one of a kind painting!
Actually, it’s tragic that no one has explained to the commissioners the fable of The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.
Posted by: Bob | Jun 11, 2011 11:19:53 AM