Gray Wolf, © Joan Poor

Howling for protection in Sacramento and Albuquerque

Yaron Miller, Director of National Outreach

Although the federal government shutdown forced the postponement of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) gray wolf delisting and Mexican gray wolf management hearings, that didn’t stop hundreds of wolf supporters from making their voices heard!

This month I traveled to Sacramento and Albuquerque with my Defenders colleague, Caitlin Balch-Burnett, to rally with our unwavering wolf advocates and to host training sessions for submitting written comments and verbal testimony to the FWS on behalf of wolves. Despite the postponement of the official hearings, more than 400 wolf supporters showed up to our events to practice giving effective testimony, meet fellow wolf supporters and rally with inspiring conservation leaders. I was inspired and energized by the passion and power of the hundreds of people, from all walks of life, who joined us to make their voices heard to keep gray wolves from being prematurely delisted from the Endangered Species list and to encourage a real recovery effort for Mexican gray wolves.

Wolf Advocates, © Defenders of Wildlife

Wolf Advocates gather at Defenders’ rallies in Sacramento and Albuquerque.

The first stop of the trip was Sacramento, California. More than 100 advocates attended the training session and learned how to craft their own compelling and personal messages to deliver to the FWS. During the session, Caitlin and I asked if anyone would like to come up on stage and read their two-minute testimony to the crowd. A few participants stepped up to share, and received thunderous applause and cheers. Their voices inspired others to draft their own testimonies, which we submitted on their behalf to the FWS.

The evening wound down with about 25 activists staying on for a strategy session to discuss tactics on how to keep the pressure on FWS abandon this proposal. The top three take-aways from the discussion were: 1) Contact your Senators and Representative; 2) Write and encourage others to write letters to the editor about this issue; and 3) Continue to spread the word in your immediate community – an easy way to learn more about how to protect endangered wildlife, like gray wolves, is to join our team of grassroots activists.

After Sacramento, we were onward to Albuquerque, New Mexico to help “Save the Lobo!” and push for real recovery of the Mexican gray wolf by releasing more wolves and letting them expand throughout suitable habitat in the Southwest. There, the large conference center room was overflowing with wolf advocates – almost 300 of them! We howled, chanted and made our voices heard in Albuquerque!

Wolf rally, © Defenders of Wildlife

Defenders representatives Yaron Miller and Caitlin Balch Burnett speak to the crowd of wolf supporters.

After we explained effective techniques and ways to craft testimonies, we again heard some fantastic two-minute statements, including one from a “Lobo” on the University of New Mexico rugby team. Each advocate used their own personal experiences, opinions and stories to explain what protecting Mexican gray wolves means to them. Many took advantage of the open laptops in the room and submitted their comments online directly to FWS (if you haven’t yet, you can here).

During the Albuquerque event, we were all fortunate to hear from a diverse group of speakers – people like Eva Sargent (Defenders of Wildlife), Dave Parsons (Rewilding Institute), Maggie Howell (NY Wolf Conservation Center) and other great conservation leaders – who explained why this effort is so important. Our attendees were also able to visit with some of our partner groups that were present at the event, and we were so grateful for all of their help in making both events wildly successful.

Once the government reschedules the hearings, we’ll be right back out there—so stay tuned! After hosting these rallies and trainings and witnessing such passion from the American public, I am confident that, just as I was, the FWS will feel the power and persuasiveness of our amazing advocates!