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September 30, 2015

The New Mexican

The State Game Commission will make another important decision today about the future of wild creatures in New Mexico.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials want to release up to 10 raised-in-captivity Mexican gray wolves, a move that has been rejected by the Department of Game and Fish. That decision has been appealed to the State Game Commission, which will be deciding the matter today at a meeting in Albuquerque. (The meeting, at Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place NE, begins at 9 a.m., but wolf enthusiasts plan to rally at 8 a.m.)

Releasing more wolves into the wild is essential in adding genetic diversity to the wild population. The department should have allowed the release, and the commissioners should overturn the initial decision. That likely won’t happen, given the commission’s recent spate of decisions against carnivores.

Commissioners’ decisions have made it easier to hunt and kill cougars and bears. They denied a permit to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch to aid in the federal wolf recovery program by providing pen space — a reversal of 17 years of a program that worked. This clearly is a Game Commission hostile to wild animals.

Should the commission not allow the release of additional wolves, we trust that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bosses will use the Endangered Species Act to force New Mexico’s hand. Under federal law, the United States is charged with protecting the endangered wolves and striving to ensure their survival. Only 110 Mexican gray wolves are believed to be roaming in our state and neighboring Arizona.

For the wolves to thrive, a more diverse DNA is necessary. Releasing these wolves — born in captivity but ready to take to the wilderness — is essential to the survival of a species. New Mexico is not alone in trying to block the release of these wolves; Arizona also is dragging its feet.

Such short-sightedness on the state level must be fought by aggressive federal action. If the states won’t do the right thing by wolves, the federal government must act, using its authority under the Endangered Species Act. Humans pushed the wolf to extinction. By acting wisely, humans can restore the wolf to its rightful place. Release the wolves, with or without state approval.

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