Written by Courtney Sexton with contributions from Melanie Gade and Haley McKey
New Mexico Game and Fish is Barring Desperately-Needed Lobo Releases: This week, Defenders and our volunteers and partner groups rallied in advance of a New Mexico Game and Fish Commission meeting on the future of Mexican gray wolves. Lobo supporters turned out in droves, despite not being allowed to offer public comment at the event. Unfortunately, the state Commission voted unanimously to deny the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s appeal of their earlier denial of permits to release captive-bred lobos in the designated recovery area in New Mexico. In other words, New Mexico won’t allow the federal government to release Mexican gray wolves into suitable habitat in the state – even though scientists have pointed out that more releases are exactly what these endangered wolves need. The Service has reintroduced captive-born Mexican gray wolves into the release area in Arizona over the years, and at last count, there were 110 wolves living in the wild in the Southwest. However, to ensure this species’ recovery, more wolves need to be released into the wild to increase the population’s genetic diversity.
In January, the Fish and Wildlife Service finalized new management rules that allow releases in the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico. Now, the Commission is sabotaging this science-based strategy. The New Mexico Commission, under Governor Martinez, has clearly become a tool of a small anti-wolf minority, and its actions are out of touch with the majority of New Mexico voters who support wolf recovery and understand the important role top carnivores serve in our ecosystems. The Service should use its authority under the Endangered Species Act to go ahead and release more wolves, regardless of the Commission’s decision.
New Polling Data Shows Overwhelming Support for the Endangered Species Act: Ninety percent of American voters support the Endangered Species Act – America’s bedrock environmental law that has been nearly 99 percent effective at preventing the extinction of listed imperiled wildlife, plants and fish. Even in states where media and big polluters have sensationalized listing decisions, falsely pitting species protections against economic development, polling released this week shows overwhelming support among registered voters for the act: 80 percent of Coloradans; 74 percent of Missourians; 75 percent of Montanans and 83 percent of Hoosiers support the ESA. Too often this law is wrongly blamed by polluters and their allies in Congress for all manner of economic woes. As a result, since January, opponents of the ESA in Congress have introduced more than 80 legislative measures that, if passed, would collectively chip away at this bedrock conservation law and put already imperiled species at greater risk. At the new polling shows, Congress is on the wrong side of public opinion on this issue, and their campaign to dismantle the Endangered Species Act must be stopped! You can help us end Congress’ war on wildlife by contacting your senators and representatives and telling them to vote against any proposals that would damage the Endangered Species Act and weaken our ability to protect America’s imperiled wildlife.
Imperiled Beluga Whales Won’t Be Coming to Georgia Aquarium! This week, a federal court upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) decision to deny the Georgia Aquarium the permit it would have needed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from a captive facility in Russia. Defenders and our conservation partners at The Humane Society of the United States filed a friend of the court brief in the case to support NMFS’ denial of the permit. This important decision shows how domestic wildlife protection laws can benefit global conservation efforts. Decisions like this are critical as we continue our work to ensure imperiled whales are protected in the wild where they belong.
Endangered Species Dodge a Bullet in the Defense Bill: For several months now, Defenders has been fighting to remove language from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would target imperiled wildlife like sage-grouse and other species. We have also worked hard to eliminate language that would have stripped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of primary jurisdiction over 800,000 acres of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. This week, the House Rules Committee posted the language of the final NDAA, and we are happy to report that these damaging provisions are not in the final bill! This is great news! These were direct attacks on imperiled wildlife and the laws that protect them, and shameful attempts to tack unrelated, anti-wildlife language onto a must-pass bill.