State Legislature Attempts to Limit Federal Wolf Reintroduction

Apr 8, 2014

Last week, two Mexican gray wolves were released in Arizona. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, a simultaneous effort is underway in the state Legislature to let ranchers kill the endangered animals in defense of livestock.

Credit Southwest Wildlife

The Arizona House of Representatives has given its initial approval of Senate Bill 1211. It's one of three that would allow the killing of wolves that are part of a reintroduction plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife advocates claim the bills violate the Endangered Species Act. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator and rancher Chester Crandell from Heber, was not available for comment. But, proponents have said the wolf recovery effort is an example of federal government overreach.

The reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves began in 1998 after the population had been reduced to just seven animals. After last week’s release, 83 gray wolves now occupy the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in eastern Arizona and New Mexico.

Emily Renn, program director for the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, says a higher wolf population adds to the species’ genetic diversity and long-term viability. In her view, the Legislature’s actions run contrary to those efforts.

“These bills are the reflection of the perpetuation of myth on predators … In a generation we’ve learned so much about science, we’ve learned so much about ecology and how complex it is, and how important biodiversity is for maintaining the health of our landscape.”

According to Renn, only six livestock kills by gray wolves occurred in 2012 in Arizona. She also says a new recovery plan is being written that would expand the range of wolves in the area. As a result, Mexican gray wolves could reenter the Grand Canyon region in a matter of years.