WASHINGTON, D.C. — A piece of legislation introduced last month could spell trouble for Mexican gray wolf conservation efforts in Arizona.
Introduced by U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, it would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with state and local entities for input in drafting a new recovery plan. Failure to comply with the plan would see Arizona and New Mexico able to “supplement or assume management of the recovery process,” according to a press release from Flake's office.
This aggressive action against the program comes after a recent move by Cochise County to challenge federal regulations governing water usage and habitat of the wolf to the tune of $64,000. Cochise County Supervisor Ann English questioned the merits of the program, saying, “What does this do for us again? How does this help us keep up our roads and maintain our services?”
“This is an important issue to Arizona; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to consider the effects the Mexican gray wolf population has on the people of Arizona and our economy when revising the outdated recovery plan,” Flake said in his press release. Earlier this year, Flake made an amendment in another piece of legislation that would call for the immediate delisting of the wolf. Recent setbacks in the program have left Republican lawmakers with plenty of ammunition in their fight against the conservation effort. Following a settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now must establish a recovery plan by November 2017.
“This bill,” said McCain, “would provide state wildlife authorities and ranchers a stronger decision-making role in the reintroduction and management of the Mexican gray wolf, and put the program on a path toward being state-led and more responsive to local stakeholders on the ground.”
More about the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program can be found at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.
Sierra Vista Herald’s Eric Petermann contributed to this story.