June 20, 2019

Thoughts on Albuquerque, N.M. Wolf Hearing

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A Guest Post by Laura Schneberger: (with permission)

Here are my thoughts after listening to the FWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] and wolf advocates the other night[at Albuquerque, NM hearing]. I know I haven’t been around this year much but rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated. I am still here still paying attention and still have not been wrong yet.

Wolf advocates want 3 separate populations of Mexican wolves in the newly defined recovery area that will be expanded after this comment period. They also want the animals reclassified to “essential”, which would effectively mean full ESA [Endangered Species Act] status and NO take. They [wolf advocates] are arguing for massive expansion of the northern boundary beyond I-40, and above the Grand Canyon, into Utah and Colorado, in the hopes that their consolation prize will be all of AZ and NM and expanded essential populations there. It’s the old bait and switch.

Keep in mind this strategy is due to the fact that Utah and Colorado will fuss and fight tooth and nail to keep any new program out of their area and end up, by default, supporting those advocacy efforts to just keep them down here; the same way people inside and outside the current boundary [areas] end up fighting each other rather than consolidating and dealing with the real problem. This is deliberate manipulation of our positions and pitting us against each other and we seem to succumb to it every time with our NIMBY attitudes allowing the agencies and extremists to get further and further by default. NIMBY will not work at this point due to what I will outline below.

Currently, FWS are claiming that under the new rule, they will only want to do direct releases into the current BRWRA and they only want an additional 25 wolves for the entire recovery area and will magnanimously only allow natural dispersal into the entire recovery area which will change soon to Mexico border to I-40 and Eastern NM to Western AZ.

I hope everyone will realize how important the history of this program is when I say, last time they changed their minds about releases and more wolves on the ground was a year or so into implementation of the 1998 rule. Then, they simply did a backdoor supplemental EA [environmental assessment or environmental impact statement] and identified areas for releases directly in NM. I implore you, do not for one minute think that a year or so after the new rule implementation, or maybe even immediately after re-listing, depending on what criteria they choose for this wolf, that there will not be a supplemental EA identifying the potential for more wolves in AZ and NM and sites that meet their criteria, exactly as they did back then. These will be located throughout the recovery area, Mexico border to I-40, and eastern NM to western AZ.

Here is more of my reasoning, historically based. It is not normal to have a big captive breeding program. Several years ago FWS were desperately scrambling for more room in the zoos and other cooperator breeders, like Turners and California wolf center. They even talked of euthanizing wolves if necessary since they were breeding so many and could not do further releases in AZ and NM. (They now have been maintaining over 300 genetically redundant wolves in the breeding program deliberately bred so there will be excess wolves ready for release. This has been going on for the past 5 -7 years) Don’t believe me? I was there when those meetings took place and even Jamie Rappaport Clark agrees with me. http://www.defendersblog.org/2013/03/mexican-gray-wolves-15th-anniversary/

These excess captive wolves ready for release right now, do not include the wolves used as breeders that are not genetically redundant (the real captive breeding population which they also maintain). On a side note, there will never, ever be a scientifically valid, extinction in the wild because all those wild wolves are genetically redundant. Only the loss of those used as breeders can render the population as extinct. Using the extinction argument is simply a media ploy, thinly veiled, to gain sympathy for the animal and support for the perceived absolute necessity of the expansion.

Now the discussion should be around genetics. A self-sustaining wolf population is not 125 animals, it is the legal requirement and it is closer to those numbers raised by almost every wolf advocate involved. Depending on what will occur during delisting and re-listing of the Mexican wolf and how they will choose to relist it, there are several scenarios. None of which will come to pass without some kind of genetic rescue. In a nutshell if they are listed as full endangered (essential) rather than “experimental non essential”, as they are now, critical habitat will be identified and land uses will be changed and the potential exists for people to be forced off the land and other economic businesses will be curtailed in whatever areas are deemed suitable habitat. (are we getting a clue now where all those northern program biologists will be employed and what they will be doing?)

But if they stay “experimental non essential” those genetically redundant animals will still need genetic rescue due to serious inbreeding repression. It may even be legal to pursue that by allowing northern gray wolves to be part of the breeding program or to just allow bisecting populations from the northern end of the Mexican wolf recovery area and southern ends of the gray wolf area. Paper on genetic rescue and the Mexican wolf. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17609180

Just some thoughts I am having after listening to all the pseudoscience at the hearing the other night, and reading through documents available. Any further ideas anyone else gleaned from the presentation comments or federal register? I am trying to organize my thoughts and once again come up with what I think are strategies to deal with our lack of organization on the issue.

Laura Schneberger