Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Mexico Game Commission Rejects Federal Releases of Endangered Mexican Wolves

Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 29, 2015
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

New Mexico Game Commission Rejects Federal Releases of
Endangered Mexican Wolves in Gila National Forest 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— In a potential setback for Mexican gray wolf recovery, the New Mexico Game Commission voted unanimously today to deny the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permission to release wolves in the Gila National Forest. The highly political decision, which comes nine months after the Service approved wolf releases into the Gila, ignores the advice of top scientists who have long called for more releases of Mexican wolves, including directly into the Gila. 

“It’s no surprise that Governor Martinez’s anti-wildlife game commission made this unfortunate decision to oppose release of more Mexican gray wolves," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision is a slap in the face to the majority of New Mexicans who are rooting for the Mexican wolf’s survival.”
Releases of wolves bred in captivity are necessary, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service and independent scientists, in order to diversify the gene pool among the wild wolves. According to the latest census number, 110 wolves, including just eight breeding pairs, live in the combined Gila National Forest in New Mexico and Apache National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. Fewer than 15 wolves also live in the wild in Mexico.
“The Mexican wolf’s fate is now in the hands of the Obama administration, which must decide whether to follow the law and save this beautiful, intelligent, social animal from extinction by releasing more to the wild, or capitulate to the state's misguided decision and do nothing,” said Robinson. “We hope very much that the Fish and Wildlife Service will proceed with releases into the Gila.”

The Mexican wolf recovery program is run by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Gila National Forest is public land, meaning permission from the state is not needed to move ahead with releases.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has similarly restricted the releases of wolves, and largely in response to state sentiments only four wolves have been released from captive-breeding facilities during the entire course of the Obama administration. The inbreeding among the Mexican wolf’s wild population in the United States is causing fewer pups to be born and fewer to survive to adulthood.

Background

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing Mexican wolves in 1998 in cooperation with state, tribal and other federal agencies. In 2011 the New Mexico Game Commission voted to end the state’s involvement in wolf recovery. 

In January the Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the release of wolves from captive-breeding facilities in the Gila, whereas previously wolves could only be released in a small area in Arizona that already contains several territorial packs and little room for additional releases.

The 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest is the fourth-largest national forest in the country and includes the world’s first official wilderness area, designated in 1924, that was protected from construction of roads. The Gila supports thousands of deer and elk and other animals on which wolves prey, thereby strengthening overall the herds and preventing overgrazing. Yet more than half of the Gila has no wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.