Below is an op-ed piece written by Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Larry Voyles regarding a historic proposal for Mexican wolf conservation recently developed by four counties and 25 stakeholders. The article was posted in today's (May 5) online edition of the Arizona Republic and was published in the "Opinions" section on page 13 of the printed edition of the Republic, with some minor edits by their editorial staff. Below is the article that was originally sent to the Republic.
Cooperators’ Mexican wolf proposal offers balance needed for successful species reintroduction
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?
The cooperating agencies and stakeholders supporting this alternative are as follows:
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Eastern Arizona Counties Organization
Gila County (AZ)
Graham County (AZ)
Greenlee County (AZ)
Navajo County (AZ)
Stakeholders Supporting this Alternative as a Starting Point for Further Discussion
Arizona Antelope Foundation
Arizona Big Game Super Raffle
Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association
Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation
Arizona Deer Association
Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society
Arizona Elk Society
Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation
Arizona Trappers Association
Arizona Wildlife Federation
Big Game Forever
ES Advisement, LLC (AZ)
Outdoor Experience 4 All
Phoenix Varmint Callers, Inc.
Sportsmen’s Constituent Group
The BASS Federation
The Mule Deer Foundation
Yuma Valley Rod & Gun Club