To create more wilderness areas across our state and the West.
Demand direct releases of wolves in New Mexico.
Forcing the US Fish and Wildlife Service to uphold its responsibility to release wolves and allow them to fully recover.
Reform the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Commission.
Educate people across the West on the value and importance not only of wolves but of all predators to a healthy environment.
Dramatically expand the range, across the state, so wolves are allowed to live and roam.
End once and for all, the illegal wolf killings, and demand that the US Attorney’s office pursue the stiffest possible penalties for those who choose to play god with wildlife.
Crush the stranglehold enjoyed by the livestock industry on local, state and national government officials, not only on the wolf issue, but their continued subsidized way of life.
Keep the media fully engaged on the issue and translate that into political pressure on the Governor.
Prevent recovery efforts in the Southwest from degrading into the horrendous killing fields of the northern Rockies.
We are the silent majority in this state, and the West...our voices must be heard!
What YOU can do
& talking points
—Sign up for the Weekly Newsletter
—Meet with local representatives and demand action, not rhetoric.
—It is important to not only write our senators, but to get to local forums where they are speaking to continue to push for their voice on wolf recovery.
—Ask that wolves be released across the state, not in one corner of it!
—Demand action from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Make clear if wolves are not released that Dr. Benjamin Tuggle must be removed from his position as Regional Director.
—Tell the US Fish and Wildlife Service to show some courage and stop placating ranchers and big oil!
—Frame this as an issue of morality.
—Demand that your representative represent you!
—Speak to friends and continue to educate yourself!
—Let us know of places to speak on this important issue.
This issue for me is deeply personal. I opened this article by speaking about the importance of wolves to a wilderness experience and to the health of ecosystems. Yet, this is also about moving forward. Like the debate about civil rights, women’s rights or even gay marriage, this is about moving forward as a society. I feel and believe in the soul of an animal—the sense that they have feelings, can understand play, feel the rhythms of nature and feel loyalty and a sense of commitment to their pack. The Mexican wolf we speak of is smaller than my dog and far more fearful of people. Our planet was designed to be shared, not dominated.
In our state today, far more people support reintroduction than those who oppose it. Yet, it is the voice of those opposed that cries far louder. We must unite; we must become that loud voice and drown out those who want to return our state and nation to moral poverty. Wolves belong, wolves belong. They must be allowed to thrive, and in return, our land and wildlife and, in fact, our people will thrive. With so few on the land and so many in pens in New York, Missouri, San Diego and Mexico, they long to breathe the air of freedom.
Aldo Leopold finally understood it in his famous essay—as he saw the “green fire dying in her eyes.” When will we? If you love wilderness and care about the land, you know that wolves are integral and so are all predators. I have been blessed sleeping many nights in wild and remote lands; I have been privileged to hear the sounds of wolves howling, to see them interact in close range. How vacuous our land would be without them.
Ranchers and conservationists in many ways share values—most importantly, a love of the land—yet we often speak seemingly different languages. Finding that true lingua franca remains the test for many issues, the wolf included, which define our Western future.
Wolves are true spirit animals that roam far and wide. They form packs, or families, much as we do. They play and run, they teach their young how to survive and are masters at killing prey, yet it is hard to escape human predators, especially those educated in fear. They once roamed across all of our country and were hunted, trapped and often tortured in a time when the West was undergoing the transition from Native American to Anglo.
Today we work towards a new transition, one that includes sharing the land and finding peace with wolves. That is our future. We have put together this special issue to help educate, inspire and call on you to join others to take action again and again—for this fight will require true diligence. We dedicate this newsletter to the memory of our beloved coworker Trisha London who loved wolves like few people can; in fact, she loved all animals with a heart and soul that inspired us all. She lost her fight to breast cancer in June.
An Intro to Wolves in New Mexico
The term 'wildness' often has different meanings for different people. Being in a remote wilderness naturally gives one a sense of wildness. Yet, even in wilderness, the true sense of wildness is often diminished without a perception of wildlife interaction. For me personally, those times when wildness and wildlife intersect truly create a feeling of other worldliness.
In the late 1800s, wildlife across the West was being summarily executed—from grizzlies to Merriam’s elk and from prairie dog to bison. The advent of repeating rifles, tanning methods and the railroad meant doom for many species. The thirst for hides, the lust for money and the sense of entitlement was a bad combination for wildlife. By 1870, bison were gone from New Mexico; by 1885, the U.S. population was reported at 85, down from 60-70 million. Between hunting and overgrazing, Merriam’s elk were gone by 1906. Rocky Mountain elk in New Mexico were extirpated by 1910.
All of this led to the creation of hunting regulations that individual states would administer. In New Mexico, that spawned the birth of what would become the Game and Fish Department in 1903. The New Mexico Legislature still gave itself the power to designate which species would be protected and which predators to target with bounties.
While Game and Fish saw to it that elk and deer populations rebounded, the same cannot be said for wolves, bison, grizzles and prairie dogs, to name just a few. New Mexico in essence has become one large deer and elk farm; predators in this realm are competition for an elk tag, and are thus problematic.
Ranching in the West
Today, across the West, a radical persecution continues of the animal that defines the very spirit of wilderness—the wolf. For many ranchers, the wolf is viewed as an affront to their ranching heritage. Their grandparents helped to eliminate them; to have them return seems, for this group, unconscionable.
Some ranchers have clearly made a change. Some have shown both a commitment to improved ranching methods and to sharing the land responsibly with wolves and other predators. They remain the future of ranching in the West.
However, across the West many ranchers (with such lobbyist associations as the Cattle Growers Association) are enjoying the personal benefits of our public lands with great federal subsidies (translation, at taxpayer expense). These same ranchers are compensated for wolf kills and have publically made the wolf their mortal enemy.
This great hoax is played out despite the fact that ranchers understand clearly how small depredation by wolves is compared to the effects of disease, road kills, falls and neglect. It is this small minority, which lends so little to New Mexico’s overall economy, which needs serious change in their reprobating ways. It is simply their personal and group iniquity. It is about control—their control of our public lands.
It is up to the public to interject the strongest possible objection to those who seek to turn back the clock to a time when the land was ravaged by overgrazing and wildlife was pushed to the edge of extinction or in some cases to extermination. Remember, when the Mexican wolf recovery plan was hatched, we were down to only seven wolves in the wild and only one was female.
A not-so radical notion
Wolves are animals that must move; they need range to survive, to hunt prey and flourish. They need to have areas to form packs. In return they help the land to restore itself, riparian areas to flourish and songbirds to return; in essence, wolves become the great balancers of our Southwest environment. Yet in the perfidious system that has been set up they are limited to lands in the Gila and to western Arizona. If that was not limiting enough, regulations were put in place that do not allow for direct releases into New Mexico.
Rather, problem wolves, those with at least a strike against them, are relocated from Arizona to New Mexico. Relocation in New Mexico should mean across the entire state (with some logical limits, but an enormous and viable portion of our state’s public and state lands), not just a small corner. Remember, they need range to roam, and that range will be improved by their presence. It should mean expansion into Utah and Colorado and finally into Texas.
Radical, you say? Contrast that to the radical notion that a handful of ranchers and their personal stooge Rep. Steve Pearce can pressure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service such that the service has become impotent in efforts to restore wolves into the wild. As of this writing it had been more than 1,385 days since a Mexican wolf has been released into the wild.
Is it a radical notion that public lands, which belong to all Americans, should be kept in balance? In the Southwest many federal lands show dramatic signs of erosion, large swaths of their original grasses covered by creosote and other shrubs. This is all the result of not of stewardship, but of folly. It remains radical to me and others that certain predators are still shot, even from planes, so that we can have more elk, antelope and deer. Some New Mexico ranchers are given special hunting tags, which by state law can be sold for personal profit to sportsmen; ironically, these same ranchers are then able to get another pool of funding when they claim too much grass has been eaten on their allotments by deer, antelope and elk. It is a complete sham, which reflects the congruence of old school politicians, New Mexico Game and Fish and more special interest funding for the ranching industry. It’s beyond radical that cows, which dominate the landscape, have more rights than an endangered species. This Pleistocene mentality must be broken once and for all.
For Rep. Pearce it’s become a defining mission, to bully the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to make species like wolves and lizards the scapegoat for economic failure of the economy and to continue a dogmatic view of wildlife’s relationship to people. In his insular and paranoid world, wildlife is emotionless, their only value to be viewed through the scope of a rifle or removed for oil and gas wells. Sadly, the Southwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, is the perfect “yes man” and is all too willing to go along with those who fear wolves. He has shown a propensity to “not rock the boat.” The agency has bent over backwards for ranching interests and is showing the clear signs of political fear by releasing no wolves prior to the election. It’s that same political concern that permeates many decisions coming from this so-called “independent agency.” With letters coming in from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch saying no wolves in Utah and Colorado’s delegations are raising concerns, Tuggle follows orders and claims to use “sound science” as the population of wolves is being dictated by his own complete apostasy.
An important win-win solution for conservation and ranchers alike is the voluntary retirement of grazing allotments. This simple plan would allow willing ranchers, those perhaps who are not handing down their ranches to children, etc., to sell their grazing allotments, which would then be permanently retired. In principle, the retirement of allotments would allow the land to rest and ultimately be restored, allowing wildlife to enjoy more quality habitat, while also giving ranchers a funding that could help them either transition to new work or supplement their retirement. Yet this effort continues to be fought by the Cattle Growers Association and other lobbyists for the ranching industry because of fear of reducing ranching numbers permanently. Again, this is a potential voluntary program, one with proven results.
Nightmare in the northern Rockies
In the Northern Rockies, scientists and conservation groups alike bent over backwards for ranching interests as wolves returned to Yellowstone. The benchmarks for recovery were set far too low. Endless meetings were set up and the word “cooperation” was used, ad nauseam. But stockmen are no fools, despite their wizened persona; they continued to work state game and fish departments, elected officials and the press, instilling fear and misinformation.
The result today is a national disgrace as wolves are being slaughtered in a three-state area, and politicians (including Democrats like Sen. John Tester) scramble to see who is more anti-wolf. Yellowstone now acts like a large zoo, rather than ground zero for wolf recovery. This proves that lies, weak political leaders and misinformation repeated often can influence and change public opinion, causing severe problems for wolf recovery.
For many, the notion is we will reach a certain threshold of wolves and then a hunting season will begin. If left to New Mexico Game and Fish, that will likely turn out the way it has in the Northern Rockies, so that must be stopped. Remember, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department has pulled out of wolf recovery altogether, the result of political pressure that likely stems from the Martinez Administration. Since we have no Yellowstone, (a 2.2 million-acre national park off limits to hunting) in New Mexico and Arizona, we must create some safe harbors, perhaps no-wolf-hunt wilderness areas, or perhaps non-hunting (for wolves) zones. Wolves will need areas that remain off limits to hunting if we are to allow their genetic viability and pack consistency to thrive. Like many game animals, those that hunt seek out the biggest, the most impressive animal. In the case of wolves, that translates into some of the strongest and perhaps most genetically important.
In the Northern Rockies, wolves are being slaughtered, they are suffering in traps and they are being laughed at as they die on YouTube videos. The Northern Rockies recovery has turned into a nightmare with no clear end in sight.