Federal Proposals Regarding Mexican Wolves in Arizona
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published two proposed rules in the Federal Register affecting Mexican wolf conservation in Arizona. The first rule proposes delisting the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened and endangered species but maintaining endangered status for the Mexican wolf. The second rule proposes expansion of the geographic boundaries of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area in Arizona and New Mexico, as well as modification of the 10(j) rule for managing the experimental Mexican wolf population. Public comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on both proposed rules are due by Oct. 28, 2013.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is holding public meetings on Sept. 23, 2013 (Payson), Sept. 24, 2013 (Tucson) and Sept. 26, 2013 (Pinetop) to share information with constituents on the proposed federal rules and provide information on how to offer comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If you were unable to attend one of the public meetings, you can view a video of the presentation that was given at the informational meetings:
To view more information on the proposals, including links to the notices in the Federal Register which describe ways of providing comment, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at http://fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/PR10jM.cfm.
Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to develop a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed revision to the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican wolf and the implementation of a management plan. The Arizona Game and Fish Department submitted a letter to the Service during the scoping period expressing issues and concerns with the Service’s approach to the draft EIS, and comments on issues/items the Service should consider to ensure the EIS addresses the full range of issues associated with Mexican wolf reintroduction and recovery.
Recap of Sept. 6, 2013 Commission action
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously on Sept. 6, 2013 to pass a resolution requesting that the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hold at least one public meeting in Arizona as part of the scoping hearings on the expansion of Mexican wolf conservation. Click here to view the resolution and the accompanying letter to the federal agencies.
Recap of Jan. 13, 2012 Commission action
During the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s nongame activities briefing to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission at the Commission’s Jan. 13, 2012 public meeting, the Commission voted unanimously to amend its policy on the release of Mexican wolves in eastern Arizona. The amendment will consider the replacement of lost wolves on a case-by-case basis. Game and Fish’s director will now have the authority to approve a wolf release in cases where an animal is lost from the population due to an unlawful act. When a wolf is lost to any other cause of mortality, the commission must approve a release. The Commission had previously voted at its December 2011 meeting to oppose any new wolf releases until certain federal planning processes had been completed. The action at this meeting amends that guidance. Click here for more information.
Recap of Dec. 2, 2011 Commission briefing and actions
On Dec. 2, 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Department gave a briefing to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission on the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, asking the Commission to reaffirm current guidance (Oct. 10, 2008) or provide new or additional guidance. Click here for a short recap of the commission actions.
Recap of Dec. 4, 2010 Commission briefing and actions
On Dec. 4, 2010, the Arizona Game and Fish Department gave a briefing to the Commission on the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, asking to the Commission to reaffirm current guidance (Oct. 10, 2008) or provide new or additional guidance.
Most notable from the briefing about the program are:
- the lack of an update to the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan,
- a lapsed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other governmental cooperators and stakeholders including the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and
- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently dismissed the 2003-05 Recovery Team, of which Arizona Game and Fish was a primary partner. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet released the plans for the formulation of a new team or how the members will interface with each other. Arizona Game and Fish has indicated formally to Fish and Wildlife Service that they must be a part of the Science and Planning part of any new team in the recovery efforts of the Mexican Wolf.
During the meeting, the Commission and public comments from local governments, sportsmen, livestock operators, and environmentalists have all reiterated support for Mexican gray wolf conservation and many stated the importance for the Arizona Game and Fish Department to be a lead agency in the effort.
After looking back at 28 years of history of the reintroduction program, the commission discussed that it is both unfortunate, and ironic that successful Mexican wolf conservation may hinge on removing it from the Congressional act intended to help restore it.
Yet, Congressional involvement maybe necessary to break the regulatory and litigious gridlock that Mexican wolf conservation has endured for many years before the demise of the species in the wild.
The Commission voted 4-1 “to direct staff to support the position of the federal delisting including our wolf population and welcome the opportunity to take this on as an agency and do it better."