Earlier this month, wolf advocates from Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado rallied to support the recovery of Mexican gray wolves in their respective states. Despite the fact that the lobo is the most endangered gray wolf in North America, the governors from the Four Corner States are attempting to undermine the recovery of this ecologically indispensable species, and subverting the will of their constituents. While Defenders of Wildlife and our passionate members took part in each of the rallies in the four states, we were especially active in New Mexico and Colorado. First on the agenda was the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in Denver.
This past November, Colorado Parks and Wildlife proposed a resolution banning Mexican gray wolves from being reintroduced into our state. Jonathan Proctor, our Rockies and Plains Program Director, attended the Commission’s meeting in Wray and, as the only member of the public present to speak, strongly stated Defenders’ opposition to the anti-wolf resolution:
“The department’s vision statement reads: “Colorado Parks and Wildlife is a national leader in wildlife management, conservation, and sustainable outdoor recreation for current and future generations.” A ban on active wolf recovery would not make Colorado Parks and Wildlife a leader in any of these categories; rather, it would be a betrayal to current and future generations. Colorado is better than this! We are honored to share our lands with wildlife, including the Mexican gray wolf which needs our great state to recover.”
The Commission was expected to vote on the anti-wolf resolution at its January meeting, so we encouraged all local wolf advocates to rally and speak out for wolf recovery in Colorado. To prepare for this fight, Defenders hosted a series of briefings to explain why Mexican gray wolves need to expand into Colorado to survive. Wolf advocates learned how to write compelling comments and testimony, and more than 50 supporters rallied with us and our partners in the conservation community at the hearing.
As expected, the pro-wolf community turned out in force to the Commission meeting. The meeting room was filled to capacity with 150 people, and 30 additional attendees were forced to stand outside the meeting room doors listening to the debate. On top of that, 100 more people waited outside the building, hoping to have the opportunity to testify. It was fantastic to see wolf supporters dominating the turnout.
Unfortunately, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to approve its anti-wolf resolution, which “opposes the intentional release of any wolves into Colorado,” including Mexican gray wolves. Even though this decision was a blow to Mexican gray wolf recovery, we were so inspired by the number of passionate citizens who showed their support for one of our most iconic animals.
At its August meeting in Santa Fe, the New Mexico Fish and Game Commission heard an appeal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after the Commission had denied the Service’s permit to release captive wolves into New Mexico. The following month, the commission denied the appeal at its meeting in Albuquerque, and in October, the Turner Endangered Species Fund made its appeal on the denial of the permit it has held for the past 17 years to hold Mexican gray wolves at its Ladder Ranch pre-release facility. These large, fenced holding pens gave Mexican gray wolves a safe haven en route to or from the wild.
At each commission meeting, we gathered with dozens of Defenders of Wildlife members to show our support for wolves. We were not allowed to speak at any of these meetings, so instead, we held signs that read, “More Wolves, Less Politics.” The message was a powerful if silent one.
When the rally before last week’s meeting began at 8 a.m., the mercury measured below 20 degrees. But despite the cold temperatures, more than 50 activists – roughly the number of Mexican wolves in the state – gathered outside to march with signs and listen to speakers comment on this pressing matter. It was heartening to see so many dedicated advocates brave the elements in support of Mexican gray wolves.
Even after the commission voted unanimously to deny the permit, we recognized that our fight was not over. Despite continued opposition from the game commission, wolf advocates have continued to make their voices heard in letters to the editor, at meetings with local elected leaders, and at rallies and meetings across our state. Without a doubt, we’ve made this an issue that the state cannot ignore.
We Want Wolves
The momentum for protecting Mexican gray wolves is strong, and together, we succeeded in raising the profile and visibility of this important issue. Defenders will keep moving forward with our wolf recovery efforts and we hope that you will continue to speak out and stand with us. The enthusiasm and dedication of hundreds of wolf supporters in New Mexico and Colorado sent a clear message from wildlife advocates that we are not giving up until lobos are home for good!