by Larry Voyles, director, Arizona Game and Fish Department
A historic proposal was recently developed by four counties and 25 critical stakeholders that supports a self-sustaining Mexican wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico. In April, their proposal gained the unanimous backing of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.
Development of this proposal required unprecedented collaboration among counties, conservation organizations, cattle growers and sportsmen, who came together to find solutions. The proposal has been submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be considered as the Service develops an Environmental Impact Statement to revise the current federal rule governing Mexican wolf conservation.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department firmly believes that in order to successfully reintroduce Mexican wolves, balance must be found among wolves, other wildlife species and human stakeholders.
There are those who may not agree. In comments to the commission, Sierra Club’s Sandy Bahr claimed the proposal “… would lead to the second extinction of [Mexican wolves] in the wild.” Such an absolute statement must be examined for accuracy in light of these facts.
First, if the Service adopts this proposal, it would allow the number of wolves to increase to between 200 and 300 animals, double to triple the current goal of “not less than 100” established in 1982.
Second, scientific literature and wolf reintroduction studies indicate that this is the number of wolves that can coexist successfully in balance with its prey base.
Third, the proposal would expand the area where wolves can roam from 4.6 million to approximately 41 million acres, a significant increase.
Fourth, the proposal also establishes a connectivity corridor for wolves to disperse to their historic range in Mexico, and acknowledges that Mexico plays a critical role in successful wolf recovery.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and Commission believe in balanced protection for all interests affected by wolf recovery, so that Mexican wolves can coexist and thrive on a modern landscape that supports a wide variety of conservation, recreation and economic uses.
But the most outstanding feature of the proposal is the belief in the power of cooperation demonstrated by its authors — the broad-based coalition who shares the land with wolves, a coalition of some of the most affected stakeholders in the reintroduction of Mexican wolves.
If those whose way of life is affected most by the presence of wolves on the landscape support a tripled population and a significant increase in recovery area, whose actions speak loudest for wolf recovery?