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Arizona Game and Fish Commission demands resolution of three primary concerns in Mexican wolf rule proposal

Posted in: News Media
Sep 24, 2014
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The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously this week to have the Arizona Game and Fish Department negotiate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find agreeable resolution to three primary points of contention in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) on the 10(j) rule for Mexican wolf recovery.

The commission directed the department to address three primary concerns in their negotiations with the Service. The current proposal:

  • Lacks a cap on the number of wolves allowed in Arizona and New Mexico. Possible resolution is 300-325 wolves across the two states with clear and enforceable removal strategies to ensure that this number is not exceeded.
  • Fails to define the level of impact that constitutes “unacceptable impact” to ungulate populations. Possible resolution is to provide an objective definition of a 15 percent impact trigger to begin wolf removal.
  • Proposes three wolf management zones in Arizona that allow dispersal to almost the entire state south of I-40 despite many of these areas offering unsuitable habitat and prey base. Possible resolution is to expand wolf management in the experimental population area in phases as follows:

    • Phase 1:  No translocations would occur west of Highway 87, but wolves could disperse to the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) north of Highway 260 between Highway 87 and I-17.
    • Phase 2:  No translocations would occur west of I-17, but wolves could disperse to Highway 89.
    • Phase 3:  No translocations would occur west of Highway 89, but wolves could disperse throughout the MWEPA.

Evaluations of the phase-in approach would be conducted after the first five years of the rule and then every three years to determine if the next phase is needed. Evaluations would consider:

  • Adverse human interactions with wolves,
  • Impacts to ungulate populations,
  • Whether the wolf population is achieving an average of 10 percent annual growth, based on the end-of-year population count.

“The commission and department have always sought a balanced approach to Mexican wolf reintroduction. The Service’s current proposal has the potential for unregulated wolf population growth that would clearly have great impact on the people and other wildlife species of Arizona. The commission’s latest action seeks to pursue a managed approach to Mexican wolf reintroduction rather than the uncertainty provided by the Service’s preferred alternative,” said Commissioner Kurt Davis.  
  
The commission is concerned that the dEIS failed to include any elements from an alternative proposal developed and submitted to the Service by 28 cooperating agencies and stakeholders. The commission adamantly believes that any successful proposal must address and balance the needs of all stakeholders and other wildlife species in the state.
  
The commission has indicated that if the Service fails to address their three concerns, they will consider legal and congressional remedies to resolve the failings of the dEIS.
  
The rule proposals currently being considered will govern the future direction of the Mexican wolf reintroduction effort in Arizona and New Mexico. The alternative developed by the cooperators’ group is scientifically-based and would further cooperation between federal and state agencies and stakeholders to achieve a self-sustaining wolf population.
  
For more information on the Cooperator’s Alternative and the Mexican wolf reintroduction effort, visit www.azgfd.gov/wolf.


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