Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Helping Hands for Wolves


September 24, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Mexican gray wolf proponents say the animals do a lot of good for the environment. That's one reason the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is acting to focus attention on this symbol of wild land.

Stephen Capra, executive director of the Alliance, says the wolf suffers due to longstanding myths, subsidized grazing on public lands, and politicians. The cattle growers pressure Republicans about the wolves and the Democrats have remained silent on the issue, Capra says.

"The vast majority of people in the state support wolves being re-introduced into the wild. However, ranchers are creating opposition to wolves in the wild. What they don't want is a real discussion about the subsidies they're receiving."

Those subsidies allow their cattle to graze on public land at greatly reduced rates, Capra explains.

In an effort to raise money to promote education and understanding about wolves and how they balance the ecosystem, the Wilderness Alliance is presenting classical pianist and wolf supporter Helene Grimaud in concert in Santa Fe on Oct. 23. The funds raised will be shared with Grimaud's Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y.

Only about 57 wolves live in the wild in New Mexico, Capra says, but some 300 more are in pens where they have been waiting to be released for the past four years. He adds that many New Mexicans support wolves but their voices are not being heard. The concert is part of an effort to get what Capra calls the "quiet majority" to speak up as one, in an orchestrated campaign.

"The passionate voice of this quiet majority has got to come out very loud. That's when politicians are going to begin to listen. Up to now, they've just been hearing from a lot of ranchers. Wolves are like the 'third rail' of conservation: They don't want to touch it."

Capra says the wolves are an important part of the ecosystem in places like New Mexico and the Northern Rockies. He points to Yellowstone National Park as an example of how reintroducing wolves rebalances the ecosystem.

"Where streams were just denuded, we're seeing willows now that are towering, which is helping fish, which is bringing more birds back. That's what we need to see here in New Mexico. But you're not going to do that when you have only 57 wolves."

The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe. Information is available at www.nmwild.org.

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