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2012

  • The Taos News

    Thursday, June 14, 2012 12:00 am

    Matthew van Buren

    To bring attention to a proposed Northern New Mexico wilderness area, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance arranged a hike up Ute Mountain, June 2.

    Ute Mountain, a volcanic formation that rises nearly 2,500 feet from the surrounding plateau to just under 10,100 feet, sits just south of the Colorado border and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

    Congress is considering a bill that would create the 13,420-acre “Cerro del Yuta Wilderness” as part of the 236,000-acre Río Grande del Norte Conservation Area. If the bill is passed, the 8,000-acre “Río San Antonio Wilderness” would also be created around San Antonio Mountain.

    BLM park ranger Daniel Rael said Ute Mountain is currently roadless, and game trails and trenches formed by forestry skidders when the mountain was being logged in the early- to mid-20th century form the principal hiking paths. He said, were the area designated as wilderness, management would not change significantly. It would, however, protect the area from future development.

    Outfitter, Mora County commissioner and northern director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance John Olivas said he has been taking groups up Ute Mountain annually for each of the last three years. He said the trips are taken in an effort to highlight the Río Grande del Norte area in general and the proposed Cerro del Yuta Wilderness in particular.

    “We’re working on showcasing the area,” he said. “Ute Mountain was designated specifically because of its roadless characteristics. There’s no development. There are no roads.”

    Rael, who is studying geology at New Mexico State University, said Ute Mountain was formed about 2.1 million years ago, making it the youngest of the volcanoes on the Taos Plateau. It sits within the San Luís Basin and Río Grande Rift. As the mountain gains in elevation, prairie grassland becomes primarily Ponderosa pine forest.

    Rael said the BLM acquired the property from a local rancher (though a section of it remains privately owned) and uses it only for wildlife purposes.

    “Pronghorn, deer and elk thrive in the area,” he said.

    Rael said elk commonly migrate through the Ute Mountain area, as they often come in from Colorado and go through the Valle Vidal area before heading west to Ute Mountain, the Wild and Scenic Rivers area and San Antonio Mountain.

    “Hunting is, well, more popular than hiking,” he said of recreational use of the area.

    Olivas said over the last three years of trips up Ute Mountain, he hasn’t encountered other groups. However, a visitor log at the top of the mountain shows hikers are active on Ute.

    “We don’t see a lot of active groups,” he said. “Actually, I don’t think we’ve seen any.”

    The group Olivas took up Ute Mountain June 2 did not reach the top, as late-morning thunderstorms moved in while the hikers were still a few hundred feet away from the summit.

    Legislation that would create the National Conservation Area, including the two wilderness areas, was introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, at the end of March 2011. According to information from the Library of Congress, the bill has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar, and the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing regarding the matter March 29.

    Olivas said Congress may approve the legislation by the end of this year, as Bingaman will be retiring at the end of 2012.

    “That’s definitely the hope,” he said.

    Bingaman has also introduced legislation to give full wilderness protection to the 45,000-acre Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County.

    Olivas provided The Taos News with polling data that shows wide support for protection of the Río Grande del Norte area in Taos and Río Arriba counties, based on 400 telephone interviews conducted in April.

    According to the polling report, 83 percent of Taos County residents support the idea, and 12 percent oppose it. In Río Arriba County, 69 percent favor protecting the Río Grande del Norte area, while 26 percent oppose it. Voters in both counties who hunt several times a year favor the proposed Conservation Area 68 percent to 30 percent, and those who fish several times a year favor it 77 percent to 20 percent.

    “By a 70 percent to 22 percent margin, likely voters in Taos and Río Arriba think this would be good for the local economy rather than bad,” the report states.

    For more information about the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, visit nmwild.org.

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  • Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 

    The frequency of larger wildfires on Forest Service lands in the West has significantly increased over the past 40 years and is likely to continue to increase as temperatures rise and winter snowpack shrinks in the West, according to a new report from a Princeton, N.J.-based scientific organization.

    The report by Climate Central warns the 2012 wildfire season — which, at 8.4 million acres, is already the second largest this decade with nearly two months of the season remaining — may soon be the new normal.

    Compared to average years in the 1970s, each year of the past decade saw seven times more fires greater than 10,000 acres and almost five times more fires larger than 25,000 acres, according to the report. In addition, wildfires today are burning twice as many acres annually than in the 1970s.

    Fires this season burned more acres on average than any other year this decade, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

    “What defines a ‘typical’ wildfire year in the West is changing,” the report says. “In the past 40 years, rising spring and summer temperatures, along with shrinking winter snowpack, have increased the risk of wildfires in most parts of the West.”

    The study also cites a National Research Council finding that for every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit increase, the area burned by wildfires in the West could quadruple. By the middle of the century, summer temperatures in western North America could increase as much as 9 degrees, the report notes, citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Higher temperatures can cause earlier snowmelt, reducing the amount of moisture in the ground and creating conditions ripe for larger fires, the report said. In the past four decades, years with higher spring and summer temperatures typically also have had the largest wildfires.

    And wildfires are burning both earlier and later in recent years than they were in the 1970s, adding 75 days to the average season.

    “What we’re seeing now in the northern Rockies is a consequence of what starts all the way back with the spring snowmelt,” Steven Running, a professor in the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation, said during a conference call with reporters this afternoon to discuss the report’s findings. He was not involved in writing the report.

    Running described the valleys surrounding Missoula, Mont., as full of smoke. Today is historically the area’s first fall frost, he said.

    “This is a clear illustration of the longer fire seasons that we now have,” he said. “We have a landscape that’s vulnerable for a longer period of time. All it takes is an ignition source, and off to the races you go.”

    Running said federal land managers should focus on breaking up the continuity of available fuels through management of natural fires and targeted salvage harvesting, in addition to creating buffer zones around towns.

    Jennifer Marlon, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, said no amount of thinning will fireproof forests, which often depend on fires to regenerate. Rather, it’s important to educate the public about building defensible space around their homes, clearing dead brush and using flame-resistant building materials.

    “I can’t think of anything that’s going to slow down this trend other than a sudden shift to cooler weather conditions and shorter summers,” said Marlon, who also was not involved in the report’s writing.

    The report also notes that the spread of mountain pine beetles and other insects in the West is a “potential driver” in wildfire activity. However, while insect-driven mortality may increase fuel loads in the short term, recent research suggests that in the long term, beetle-killed forests may be no more susceptible to fire than healthy ones, it said.

    Climate Central, a nonprofit group of scientists and journalists, says it does not advocate any specific legislation or policies. But its writers have urged immediate action to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

    The Forest Service this season has been attacking wildfires more aggressively, including ones far from communities, citing unusually dry conditions and tight budgets.

    The Obama administration plans to accelerate tree thinning to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires but is limited by funding, a lagging lumber market and occasional environmental lawsuits.

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  • By Kirk Robinson, PhD
    Executive Director
    Western Wildlife Conservancy

    map2 207x250Historically, there were wolves in Utah, yet today there are no known breeding pairs or packs of wolves in Utah. Wolves captured in Canada were reintroduced into central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-nineties, but none were reintroduced into Utah. A couple of years later, descendants of a few remnant Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced into parts of New Mexico and Arizona, but none were reintroduced into Utah, although the southern part of the state is within the northern extent of the lobo’s historic range. Will wolves from the north or the south ever set up home in Utah?

    A small part of northern Utah lies within the Northern Rockies Distinct Population Segment (DPS)–a geographical designation for the intended recovery area. This area includes the Bear River Range, which runs north-south from Utah into southeastern Idaho and is the only continuous forested link between the Uinta Mountains of northern Utah and the various mountain ranges (Salt River, Wyoming, Teton) that lie within the greater Yellowstone ecoregion. The Uinta Mountains, in turn, connect up with wild country in Colorado. Thus, the Bear River Range and the Uinta Range together form a major wildlife corridor between the northern and southern Rockies. As documented by satellite monitoring, this mega-corridor has already been used by wolves and lynxes traveling between the two regions. (See map.)

    When the House and Senate passed the budget bill, attached was a rider that delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho, and parts of Utah, Washington, and Oregon. Unfortunately, that means that wolves are now delisted in Utah within the Northern Rockies DPS. Thus, any wolves found within this area can be legally killed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR). In preparation for this, in 2010 the Utah Legislature passed S.B. 36 ordering the UDWR to “prevent the establishment” of a pack of wolves within the part of the Rocky Mountain DPS within Utah. Meanwhile, the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are busy either killing wolves or planning to (wolves are still protected in Wyoming pending a management plan acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

    Fortunately, within the 90 percent or so of Utah outside the DPS, wolves remain fully protected under the Endangered Species Act, a situation that gives UDWR fits. At least twice the agency has written to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, demanding that Utah be given managerial authority over wolves throughout the state. So far, the secretary seems to have ignored this demand.

    Meanwhile, Senator Orrin Hatch, “hatchet man” for Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Big Game Forever, has written editorials published in the St. George Spectrum declaring his intent to fight any attempt to expand the Mexican wolf recovery area to include parts of Utah – never mind that, as indicated by professional surveys, most Utahans are positive about the idea.

    Modeling indicates that Utah can support up to 200 wolves and Colorado, up to 1,000 wolves. Populations of this magnitude would be part of a connected meta-population of wolves from Mexico to Canada, which might in fact be necessary for the very salvation of the Mexican wolf. Unfortunately, we cannot now predict that either state will ever have viable populations of wolves. It’s going to be a tough fight, with Utah poised to become ground zero.

    Map description: The Uintas-Yellowstone Connection is a mega-corridor connecting wildlands in Utah and Colorado with the greater Yellowstone ecoregion. It is of particular importance to cougars, bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines. An especially vital segment of the U-Y Connection is the Bear River Mountains Link, outlined in the smaller box. This 80-mile long mountain range, with summits between 8,000 and 10,000 feet, is the only mountain link connecting the Utah and Colorado Rockies with the greater Yellowstone ecoregion. Wolves dispersing from the Yellowstone region have been tracked via satellite as they moved along the Uinta and Bear River ranges, as have lynxes from Colorado as they moved north.

  • Russell McLendon, Mother News Network
    July 16, 2012

    Fears of wild wolves have spurred a backlash in Montana, where recently legalized trapping, lifted kill quotas and lengthened the hunting season. (Photo: U.S. FWS)

    The gray wolf is no longer an endangered species in several U.S. states, thanks to decades of federal protection in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes. But amid escalating efforts to curb its comeback — namely via public hunting and trapping — many conservationists say the iconic predators aren’t out of the woods yet.
     
    One major battleground in America’s wolf wars lately is Montana, where state officials last week loosened an array of restrictions on wolf hunting. Passed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission in a 4-0 vote, the new rules allow trapping for the first time since gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list last year. They also extend the length of the hunting season, and remove a statewide limit on how many wolves can legally be killed per year.
     
    This is welcome news to many ranchers and hunters in Montana, who often suggest wolves pose an existential threat to livestock and wild elk populations. And with biologists reporting at least 650 wolves in the state this year, up from 500 in 2009, advocates of looser hunting laws have found ample support from local politicians.
     
    “We need to make sure we keep the wolf population in balance so they’re not attacking more elk, more deer, more antelope,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Billings’ KTVQ Thursday, “but we’re going to maintain a healthy wolf population in Montana as well.”
     
    Not everyone agrees that Montana’s wolves are a problem, though, or that more hunting and trapping is a good strategy for ecological balance. Montana had a population of 2.5 million cattle and sheep in 2011, notes ecologist George Wuerthner in a recent blog post on Wildlife News, yet wolves killed fewer than 100 of those animals last year. The MFWPC’s decision, he writes, “will likely lead to greater conflicts between humans and wolves because [it] ignores the social ecology of predators.”
     
    wolf range
    Image: U.S. National Park Service
     
    Gray wolves inhabited most of North America 200 years ago, but they were virtually wiped out of the Lower 48 states in the 19th and early 20th centuries by government-sponsored eradication campaigns, which portrayed them as deadly pests. Only later did scientists realize their importance as a “keystone predator” — an animal that helps regulate the food web by, for instance, keeping grazer populations in check so they don’t eat too many tree seedlings and hinder forest growth.
     
    U.S. wolves were added to the endangered species list in 1974, and wildlife officials later reintroduced small numbers to the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. After a slow start, the species is now self-sustaining in several states, including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Meanwhile, another rebound has unfolded in the western Great Lakes, where Canadian wolves have repopulated parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
     
    As wolves return to their former hunting grounds, however, they’ve found a changed landscape — one populated not just with familiar prey like deer and elk, but also with millions of chickens, cows and sheep. This has predictably renewed their ancient rivalry with humans, ultimately leading to their removal from the endangered species list and the return of legal wolf hunting. And while those hunts have so far been limited to the West, Wisconsin will also hold a wolf season this fall, in which 25 percent of its wolves may be legally killed. Minnesota is similarly mulling a plan that would let 13 percent of its wolves be hunted or trapped per year.
     
    Wolf attacks on livestock are relatively rare, but they can still be costly for ranchers. Wisconsin has about 800 wild wolves, for example, which have been blamed for 64 incidents of livestock harrassment, property damage or other problems so far in 2012. (There were 182 such incidents reported in 2011, but not all were confirmed.) To reduce tension, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources issues payments to people whose livestock are attacked — it has paid more than $214,000 so far in 2012, up from $155,000 in all of 2011 and $203,000 in 2010.
     
    wolves elk 2
    HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF: Wolves stare down an elk in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: NPS)
     
    Another rationale for allowing wolf hunts is to reduce competition for game animals like elk, whose populations are also smaller than they were 200 years ago. But according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, while “elk will probably never return to their historic numbers nor to all of their historic range, far more elk inhabit the United States than at any other time in the last 100 years.”
     
    Experts generally agree that wolves are now stable in much of the U.S., and many say they exceed the numbers needed for a healthy population. There is substantial local support for wolf hunting in states that have wolves, but there’s also a firm opposition that sees public hunting and trapping as archaic ways to manage wildlife.
     
    “In 2012, it’s just mind-boggling to me that we’re still talking about trapping. It’s such an inhumane and torturous method,” Pam Guschausky of Great Falls, Mont., told the MFWPC during Thursday’s public meeting, according to Reuters. And beyond ethical issues, Wuerthner argues that unfettered hunting and trapping could make wolf-human relations even worse than they already are.
     
    “Hunting predators tends to skew populations toward younger animals,” he writes in Wildlife News. “Younger animals are inexperienced hunters and thus are more likely to attack livestock. … In addition, just as occurs with coyotes, under heavy persecution, wolves respond by producing more pups. More pups means greater mouths to feed, and a need to kill even more game — thus hunting and trapping may actually lead to greater predator kill of game animals like elk and deer.”
     
    Montana hunters killed 166 wolves last year, well below the quota of 220, a disparity supporters cite as a reason to soften state laws. Yet conservationists point to the 20th century as evidence that loose hunting laws can push wolves to the brink of extinction, and animal-rights advocates add that tactics like trapping are cruel. “It’s barbaric and it’s uncalled for,” Kim Bean of Helena, Mont., said at Thursday’s meeting, according to the Helena Independent-Record. “You need to stop this trapping. It’s not fair chase.”
     
    As MFWPC chairman Bob Ream said Thursday, such battles over wolves will likely continue long into the future. Rather than trying to end them, he hopes to simply contain them to sustainable levels — much like what Montana wildlife officials aim to do with wolves themselves. “This is a tough issue,” Ream said, noting that the MFWPC received more than 7,000 public comments about wolf-hunting rules. “It’s become so polarized. My hope for the future is that we can get to the point where we treat this large predator like we do any large predator, like mountain lions.”
  • Russell McLendon, Mother News Network
    July 16, 2012

    Fears of wild wolves have spurred a backlash in Montana, where recently legalized trapping, lifted kill quotas and lengthened the hunting season. (Photo: U.S. FWS)

    The gray wolf is no longer an endangered species in several U.S. states, thanks to decades of federal protection in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes. But amid escalating efforts to curb its comeback — namely via public hunting and trapping — many conservationists say the iconic predators aren’t out of the woods yet.
     
    One major battleground in America’s wolf wars lately is Montana, where state officials last week loosened an array of restrictions on wolf hunting. Passed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission in a 4-0 vote, the new rules allow trapping for the first time since gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list last year. They also extend the length of the hunting season, and remove a statewide limit on how many wolves can legally be killed per year.
     
    This is welcome news to many ranchers and hunters in Montana, who often suggest wolves pose an existential threat to livestock and wild elk populations. And with biologists reporting at least 650 wolves in the state this year, up from 500 in 2009, advocates of looser hunting laws have found ample support from local politicians.
     
    “We need to make sure we keep the wolf population in balance so they’re not attacking more elk, more deer, more antelope,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Billings’ KTVQ Thursday, “but we’re going to maintain a healthy wolf population in Montana as well.”
     
    Not everyone agrees that Montana’s wolves are a problem, though, or that more hunting and trapping is a good strategy for ecological balance. Montana had a population of 2.5 million cattle and sheep in 2011, notes ecologist George Wuerthner in a recent blog post on Wildlife News, yet wolves killed fewer than 100 of those animals last year. The MFWPC’s decision, he writes, “will likely lead to greater conflicts between humans and wolves because [it] ignores the social ecology of predators.”
     
    wolf range
    Image: U.S. National Park Service
     
    Gray wolves inhabited most of North America 200 years ago, but they were virtually wiped out of the Lower 48 states in the 19th and early 20th centuries by government-sponsored eradication campaigns, which portrayed them as deadly pests. Only later did scientists realize their importance as a “keystone predator” — an animal that helps regulate the food web by, for instance, keeping grazer populations in check so they don’t eat too many tree seedlings and hinder forest growth.
     
    U.S. wolves were added to the endangered species list in 1974, and wildlife officials later reintroduced small numbers to the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. After a slow start, the species is now self-sustaining in several states, including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Meanwhile, another rebound has unfolded in the western Great Lakes, where Canadian wolves have repopulated parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
     
    As wolves return to their former hunting grounds, however, they’ve found a changed landscape — one populated not just with familiar prey like deer and elk, but also with millions of chickens, cows and sheep. This has predictably renewed their ancient rivalry with humans, ultimately leading to their removal from the endangered species list and the return of legal wolf hunting. And while those hunts have so far been limited to the West, Wisconsin will also hold a wolf season this fall, in which 25 percent of its wolves may be legally killed. Minnesota is similarly mulling a plan that would let 13 percent of its wolves be hunted or trapped per year.
     
    Wolf attacks on livestock are relatively rare, but they can still be costly for ranchers. Wisconsin has about 800 wild wolves, for example, which have been blamed for 64 incidents of livestock harrassment, property damage or other problems so far in 2012. (There were 182 such incidents reported in 2011, but not all were confirmed.) To reduce tension, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources issues payments to people whose livestock are attacked — it has paid more than $214,000 so far in 2012, up from $155,000 in all of 2011 and $203,000 in 2010.
     
    wolves elk 2
    HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF: Wolves stare down an elk in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: NPS)
     
    Another rationale for allowing wolf hunts is to reduce competition for game animals like elk, whose populations are also smaller than they were 200 years ago. But according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, while “elk will probably never return to their historic numbers nor to all of their historic range, far more elk inhabit the United States than at any other time in the last 100 years.”
     
    Experts generally agree that wolves are now stable in much of the U.S., and many say they exceed the numbers needed for a healthy population. There is substantial local support for wolf hunting in states that have wolves, but there’s also a firm opposition that sees public hunting and trapping as archaic ways to manage wildlife.
     
    “In 2012, it’s just mind-boggling to me that we’re still talking about trapping. It’s such an inhumane and torturous method,” Pam Guschausky of Great Falls, Mont., told the MFWPC during Thursday’s public meeting, according to Reuters. And beyond ethical issues, Wuerthner argues that unfettered hunting and trapping could make wolf-human relations even worse than they already are.
     
    “Hunting predators tends to skew populations toward younger animals,” he writes in Wildlife News. “Younger animals are inexperienced hunters and thus are more likely to attack livestock. … In addition, just as occurs with coyotes, under heavy persecution, wolves respond by producing more pups. More pups means greater mouths to feed, and a need to kill even more game — thus hunting and trapping may actually lead to greater predator kill of game animals like elk and deer.”
     
    Montana hunters killed 166 wolves last year, well below the quota of 220, a disparity supporters cite as a reason to soften state laws. Yet conservationists point to the 20th century as evidence that loose hunting laws can push wolves to the brink of extinction, and animal-rights advocates add that tactics like trapping are cruel. “It’s barbaric and it’s uncalled for,” Kim Bean of Helena, Mont., said at Thursday’s meeting, according to the Helena Independent-Record. “You need to stop this trapping. It’s not fair chase.”
     
    As MFWPC chairman Bob Ream said Thursday, such battles over wolves will likely continue long into the future. Rather than trying to end them, he hopes to simply contain them to sustainable levels — much like what Montana wildlife officials aim to do with wolves themselves. “This is a tough issue,” Ream said, noting that the MFWPC received more than 7,000 public comments about wolf-hunting rules. “It’s become so polarized. My hope for the future is that we can get to the point where we treat this large predator like we do any large predator, like mountain lions.”
  • By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press on Tue, Sep 11, 2012

    A female Mexican gray wolf wanted for killing too many cows in southwestern New Mexico is giving trappers the slip.

    More than a month after the order to remove the pack leader and mother of pups sparked a public outcry, she remains on the loose.

    “She’s one elusive girl,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional spokesman Tom Buckley said Friday. “We’re still trying.”

    Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have been combing the northwestern portion of the Gila National Forest for any signs of the wolf. They have also been checking their traps every day, but still nothing.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially issued an order in early August to shoot the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack.

    Four cattle deaths linked to the pack happened outside the wolf recovery boundaries within four months, with the most recent one being reported Aug. 1. There were also two other cases last summer.

    The agency tried hazing, range riders were hired to scare the female wolf and her pack away, and feeding was done in an attempt to lure the wolves away from the cattle. Nothing worked.

    A few days after issuing the lethal order, the agency rescinded it, calling instead for the animal to be trapped and removed from the wild.

    The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center offered to take the wolf into captivity.

    “They should leave the loba in the wild with her lifelong mate to raise her pups. Putting her into captivity does no one any good,” said Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection director with WildEarth Guardians, using the Spanish word for female wolf.

    Federal wildlife managers have said the Fox Mountain pack is important to achieving population goals. However, because the alpha female and male are cousins, the female isn’t considered as genetically valuable as other wolves that have been allowed to stay in the wild despite livestock problems.

    A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Mexican wolf was added to the endangered species list in 1976. A captive-breeding program was started, and the first batch of wolves was released into the wild in 1998.

    Efforts to re-establish the predators in the Southwest have stumbled because of legal battles, illegal shootings and other problems. A survey done at the beginning of the year showed there were at least such 58 wolves in the wild along the New Mexico-Arizona border.

    This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

  • By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press on Tue, Sep 11, 2012

    A female Mexican gray wolf wanted for killing too many cows in southwestern New Mexico is giving trappers the slip.

    More than a month after the order to remove the pack leader and mother of pups sparked a public outcry, she remains on the loose.

    “She’s one elusive girl,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional spokesman Tom Buckley said Friday. “We’re still trying.”

    Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have been combing the northwestern portion of the Gila National Forest for any signs of the wolf. They have also been checking their traps every day, but still nothing.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially issued an order in early August to shoot the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack.

    Four cattle deaths linked to the pack happened outside the wolf recovery boundaries within four months, with the most recent one being reported Aug. 1. There were also two other cases last summer.

    The agency tried hazing, range riders were hired to scare the female wolf and her pack away, and feeding was done in an attempt to lure the wolves away from the cattle. Nothing worked.

    A few days after issuing the lethal order, the agency rescinded it, calling instead for the animal to be trapped and removed from the wild.

    The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center offered to take the wolf into captivity.

    “They should leave the loba in the wild with her lifelong mate to raise her pups. Putting her into captivity does no one any good,” said Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection director with WildEarth Guardians, using the Spanish word for female wolf.

    Federal wildlife managers have said the Fox Mountain pack is important to achieving population goals. However, because the alpha female and male are cousins, the female isn’t considered as genetically valuable as other wolves that have been allowed to stay in the wild despite livestock problems.

    A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Mexican wolf was added to the endangered species list in 1976. A captive-breeding program was started, and the first batch of wolves was released into the wild in 1998.

    Efforts to re-establish the predators in the Southwest have stumbled because of legal battles, illegal shootings and other problems. A survey done at the beginning of the year showed there were at least such 58 wolves in the wild along the New Mexico-Arizona border.

    This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

  • Rene Romo

    June 06–LAS CRUCES — The death of a female member of the Dark Canyon wolf pack is under investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, officials said Tuesday.

    The body of the wolf, which was found last month, has been sent to a forensic lab in Ashland, Ore., for a necropsy to determine the cause of death, said Tom Buckley, a Service spokesman in Albuquerque.

    Meanwhile, Fish and Wildlife continues to monitor the Whitewater-Baldy Fire, which has burned more than 259,000 acres mainly in the Gila Wilderness, for potential threats to two packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves, including the Dark Canyon pack. The other pack in the path of the sprawling wildfire sparked by lightning on May 16 was identified as the Middle Fork pack.

    Sherry Barrett, the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, said that the containment lines firefighters dug out on the northern and eastern edges of the fire “are holding” and the blaze has not yet reached the two packs.

    Both the Middle Fork and Dark Canyon packs are denning, Barrett said, “but we don’t know if they have pups.”

    If the two packs are denning pups, every day the fire is kept away improves the chances the pups grow mobile enough to move to safety, Barrett said.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service counted 58 wolves in the forests of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico at the end of last year, an increase from 2010 but still below the 100 wolves federal officials projected would be roaming wild by the end of 2006.

    Federal officials on March 27 near Alpine, Ariz., found the carcass of a wolf pup that was shot to death. That case is also under investigation.

    The illegal shooting of Mexican gray wolves accounted for nearly half of all the documented causes of wolf mortalities — 43 of 88 — in the wild between the start of the recovery effort in 1998 and the end of 2011.

    State, federal and nongovernment organizations have offered a total of $57,000, depending on the information provided, for information leading to the conviction of an individual responsible for the illegal killing of a Mexican gray wolf.

    The Dark Canyon pack, which now consists of two alpha wolves and a younger female wolf, generally roams the west-central portion of the Gila National Forest. The Middle Fork pack, consisting of two alpha wolves, is located in the central portion of the Gila National Forest.

    https://oklahomawelcome.com/weather/wolf-s-death-investigated-albuquerque-journal-albuquerque-tribune.html

  • Rene Romo

    June 06–LAS CRUCES — The death of a female member of the Dark Canyon wolf pack is under investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, officials said Tuesday.

    The body of the wolf, which was found last month, has been sent to a forensic lab in Ashland, Ore., for a necropsy to determine the cause of death, said Tom Buckley, a Service spokesman in Albuquerque.

    Meanwhile, Fish and Wildlife continues to monitor the Whitewater-Baldy Fire, which has burned more than 259,000 acres mainly in the Gila Wilderness, for potential threats to two packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves, including the Dark Canyon pack. The other pack in the path of the sprawling wildfire sparked by lightning on May 16 was identified as the Middle Fork pack.

    Sherry Barrett, the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, said that the containment lines firefighters dug out on the northern and eastern edges of the fire “are holding” and the blaze has not yet reached the two packs.

    Both the Middle Fork and Dark Canyon packs are denning, Barrett said, “but we don’t know if they have pups.”

    If the two packs are denning pups, every day the fire is kept away improves the chances the pups grow mobile enough to move to safety, Barrett said.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service counted 58 wolves in the forests of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico at the end of last year, an increase from 2010 but still below the 100 wolves federal officials projected would be roaming wild by the end of 2006.

    Federal officials on March 27 near Alpine, Ariz., found the carcass of a wolf pup that was shot to death. That case is also under investigation.

    The illegal shooting of Mexican gray wolves accounted for nearly half of all the documented causes of wolf mortalities — 43 of 88 — in the wild between the start of the recovery effort in 1998 and the end of 2011.

    State, federal and nongovernment organizations have offered a total of $57,000, depending on the information provided, for information leading to the conviction of an individual responsible for the illegal killing of a Mexican gray wolf.

    The Dark Canyon pack, which now consists of two alpha wolves and a younger female wolf, generally roams the west-central portion of the Gila National Forest. The Middle Fork pack, consisting of two alpha wolves, is located in the central portion of the Gila National Forest.

    https://oklahomawelcome.com/weather/wolf-s-death-investigated-albuquerque-journal-albuquerque-tribune.html

  • mar 1 weekly

  • The Santa Fe New Mexican
    December 18, 2012 

    News that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Taos last Saturday to hear comments about how best to preserve the Rio Grande del Norte is sending hearts aflutter across Northern New Mexico. Traditionally, before land is set aside, a last, listening meeting takes place, meaning (cross your fingers) that before the end of 2012, the designation of the Rio Grande del Norte as deserving special protection will happen.

    This status would protect some of Northern New Mexico’s most precious outdoors areas, whether for hunting, fishing, rafting, wood cutting, grazing or plain ol’ enjoying. A dream of a wide variety of norteños, this designation — some 236,00 acres of public land northwest of Taos — also is a fitting tribute to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate. Indian, Hispanic and Anglo peoples of the north, outdoorsmen and conservationists, business owners and environmentalists all have worked together to show the benefits of preserving the area, which contains parts of the Rio Grande Gorge, Ute Mountain and the Taos Plateau; in other words, some of the most spectacular and wild places in New Mexico.

    Because the current Congress has been so reluctant to preserve wilderness — this session likely will be the first since 1966 where lawmakers fail to set aside new areas for protection — it could fall to President Barack Obama to use his executive powers instead. Under the Antiquities Act, the president can designate this important recreational and wildlife area as a national monument. Instead of the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, we could have the Rio Grande del Norte Monument. Either works.

    We urge the president to follow in the footsteps of conservation pioneer President Teddy Roosevelt, and even President Richard Nixon, both of whom knew the value of the wild. It was Roosevelt who started the practice of setting aside land so the wild core of this nation would not be lost. Nixon was the president who returned the sacred Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo — a victory both for the rights of indigenous peoples and for the land itself. Today, more than ever, this country must preserve the wild, safeguard our water and protect people’s access to nature. Creating the Rio Grande del Norte Monument is in the best tradition of our nation and in the best interests of New Mexico.

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