The US Fish and Wildlife Department held a 3-hour meeting Wednesday night to receive public comment on a controversial new recovery plan for the endangered Mexican Gray Wolf. The proposed changes have created quite a stir and people logged nearly 100 comments.
It was cold and rainy Wednesday night, but that didn’t stop about 200 hundred people from gathering in Albuquerque to express their widely disparate views on one pesky animal. The topic was the Mexican Gray Wolf.
Ranchers, environmentalists and state officials turned out for the public hearing to go on the record with their comments.
Wolf supporters who want to see the animal remain on the endangered species list marched back and forth through the lobby with signs and stickers that read "I’m pro-wolf and I vote."
Around the corner in a conference room, the self proclaimed grass roots group that advocates for less government Americans for Prosperity was playing a video claiming that wolves are not good for rural communities.
This was one of two scheduled public hearings on proposed changes to how the federal government deals with the Mexican Gray Wolf. The first Albuquerque hearing was canceled in October due to the government shutdown.
Proposed changes include making it possible for wolves to be released into the Blue Range Recovery Area in New Mexico, not just in Arizona, and relaxing some restrictions on killing wolves when they attack pets or livestock.
Rancher John Diamond lives in the release area and said he’s seen the effect of wolves first hand. He told a story about his wife and kids getting stuck in their house because a couple of wolves would not leave their doorstep.
“We are affected by these wolves. The majority of the public is not affected. They don’t have to worry about their children being harassed or attacked," Diamond said.
Eva Sargent is a program director for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife. She criticized Fish and Wildlife for what she called outdated goals.
“Instead of doing things in this rule change that would promote real change, they’re just tinkering," Sargent said.
While she understands the concerns of ranchers, Sargent point out that the number of cattle lost to wolves is extremely low when viewed at a state level.
George Stapleton who works with Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in northwestern New Mexico said he spends more time with animals than humans. He says extreme points of view will not help either side and that there needs to be a middle ground. One suggestion from Stapleton? Go have a look.
“We don’t live in Catron County. If what is happening is really happening lets get boots on the ground. Lets validate this and help them," Stapelton said.
The updated recovery plan for the Mexican Gray Wolf isn’t expected until sometime in 2014. The public comment period closes December 17.