Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wolves Could Be Free to Roam, be Killed Under Program Changes

PUBLIC COMMENT SOUGHT

Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014 
 
CIBOLA COUNTY - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced its update to its June 2013 proposed revisions to the existing nonessential experimental population designation of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) under the Endangered Species Act to provide additional clarity and flexibility to effectively manage the experimental population in a working landscape. The Service also announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement (dEIS) on the proposed revisions. A 60-day public comment period is reopening through Sept. 23 to provide all interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule and dEIS. Public information meetings and hearings have also been scheduled.
FWS has proposed new revisions to the Mexican gray wolf initiative that would expand both the scope of the animals’ reintroduction and the freedom to kill them in certain circumstances. The proposed a revision would extend the wolf’s population area from Interstate 40 to the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico and Arizona. This would allow reintroduction and dispersion of the wolf to anywhere in that border area. Since not all of that area is federal land, it will allow the wolves to spread onto private, state and tribal lands as well.
“(We’re) trying to open up the landscape, to set up a northern border at I-40 and let them spread out,’ said Tracy Melbihess, a biologist with the FWS’s Mexican Wolf Recovery Program. “It gives the wolves the chance to spread out outside of the Apache and Gila national forests.”
 
“If we are already in place trying to remove wolves from an area, it is just more efficient to go ahead and permit the property owner to help us,” Melbihess said. “So, this could permit ranchers to take a wolf under very special circumstances.”

Jeff Humphrey, a public outreach specialist with the USFWS, said that the pro posed revision is really there to open a broad enough rule to accommodate what may be needed in the future.

Because of the wolf’s proposed new spread, many private, state and tribal lands are included — resulting in more opportunities for interaction between wolves and humans. Therefore, the proposal also clarifies definitions of when wolves can be taken while attacking livestock or non-feral dogs, or as is needed to manage wild populations of elk, deer, etc. The FWS already “takes” wolves in these situations.

The proposal will be the subject of two hearings. The New Mexico meeting will be held Aug. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Truth or Consequences, with an informational session scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. that day in the same location. The Arizona meeting will be held Aug. 11 in Pinetop.

The comment period on the proposed rule will remain open through Sept. 23.

Since 1998, the Service and cooperating state, federal and tribal agencies have reintroduced and managed Mexican wolves under a rule designating the U.S. population as “Nonessential, Experimental.” The designation provides for increased management flexibility for populations that are reintroduced into a designated experimental area within their historical range.

The proposed revisions include: 
                          
• _expanding the areas within which Mexican wolves can be released and disperse,
• _extending the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area’s (MWEPA) southern boundary from I-40 to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and New Mexico, and
• _clarifying definitions in the rule, including when wolves can be taken while attacking livestock and non-feral dogs, or as needed to manage wild ungulate populations (elk, deer, etc.).

The regulatory flexibility provided by these proposed revisions to the 1998 rule would allow for management actions within the MWEPA that further the conservation of the Mexican wolf while being responsive to the needs of local communities in cases of problem wolf behavior.
The proposed rule revisions have been informed by and are being evaluated through the development of a comprehensive dEIS. The dEIS evaluates impacts of four alternative revisions to the rule (including the 1998 rule) on land use, biological resources (including wild ungulate prey species), economic activities (including ranching, hunting and tourism), human health and safety, and environmental justice.

Written comments on this proposed rule and the draft environmental impact statement can be submitted by one of the following methods:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for FWS–R2–ES–2013–0056, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!” Ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.
(2) By hard copy: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2013–0056; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
Previously submitted comments on the proposed rule revision and dEIS need not be resubmitted, as they will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule and EIS.
To learn more about the proposed rule revision, dEIS, and details of the public hearings, and for links to submit comments to the record, visit http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

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