The committee will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the Office of the State Engineer in Deming, 301 S. Tin St. The committee has been formed by Luna County to reply to the Southwestern Mexican Gray Wolf Management Plan.
The plan, as described by the federal agency, is not to release or reintroduce wolves into areas of New Mexico, Arizona and Western Texas, but to manage the wolves that "naturally disperse into, or recolonize" those areas.
During the regular Jan. meeting, Luna County commissioners expressed hesitance to accepting the idea that wolves could be allowed in to Luna County. One commissioner commented as though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed plan is to release wolves into areas outlined in the plan.
"To release anymore gray wolves in any area would be non-productive," Commissioner Joe "Oleo" Milo said. "I don't see any value to release [wolves] anymore. They were extinct and to try and bring them back, to me, doesn't sound right."
The Mexican gray wolf population did disappear from the United States, but those that survived in Mexico and in captivity were used to release 11 into Arizona in 1998.
According to the wolf management plan, the gray wolf is classified as an endangered species in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico except between Interstate 10 and Interstate 40 in Arizona and New Mexico and North of U.S. Highway 62/180 in Texas. Between those highways, the wolf is classified as a "non-essential, experimental population."
About 60 wolves are currently in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in mid-Arizona and New Mexico near Reserve, NM abd Springerville, AZ.
Under the proposed wolf plan, wolves that are not from the experimental zone and are not found within the experimental zone will be managed under the Southwestern Gray Wolf Management Plan. Wolves that are from the experimental zone or found inside of it will be managed under the experiment population rules.
On the maps for the proposed management zones in Arizona, New Mexico - which includes Luna, Hidalgo and Doña Ana Counties - and West Texas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service wrote in its report: "We do not expect all of these areas to be occupied by wolves nor do we imply any measures of the quality of the habitat (i.e., preferred habitat), rather we composed this for purely illustrative purposes of the broadest possible areas that wolves may naturally recolonize."
But the commissioners were not happy with the idea of wolves possibly being in Luna County. Commissioners Milo and Jay Spivey spoke on concerns held by ranchers and others who fear wolf attack.
But local wildlife advocate Rick Henry did not appreciate the reasoning of the commissioners' fear for livestock losses as prey of wolves. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, between 1998 and 2009, there has been an average of 12 cattle, one sheep, one horse and one dog confirmed to have been killed by wolves in the BRWRA annually. He says ranchers should plan for losses and should seek reimbursement for losses when incurred.
"Who are we to be annoyed because they get in the way of us making a dollar," he asked. "This planet doesn't belong to us; it must be shared with other species. We have a responsibility and an obligation to be supportive."
Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) has been a vocal opponent of the gray wolf recovery program, saying it is unsuccessful, ineffective and that the wolves threaten the lives and livelihoods of New Mexicans. He has also pushed reinstate federal reimbursements for ranchers.
The non-profit group Defenders of Wildlife made 19 payments totaling more than $27,000 in 2012 to reimburse ranchers for losses.
For the complete plan in a .pdf format, visit www.lunacountynm.us.
Matt Robinson can be reached at email@example.com