Endangered Mexican Wolves May Be Moved to Gila National Forest

Local Meetings Held in New Mexico

(03/01/2000) - Defenders of Wildlife today applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to translocate wild endangered Mexican gray wolves from the Blue Range in Arizona to the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. The future recovery of Mexican wolves hinges directly on their ability to establish territories within the Gila National Forest. Translocations into the Gila Wilderness will significantly benefit wolf recovery by allowing wolves to be located in areas with no roads and few livestock. This will minimize conflict, advance recovery, reduce costs and promote overall program acceptance and success.

"We strongly support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal because the Gila National Forest is the safest and best habitat for wolves in the Southwest," said Craig Miller, Southwest representative of Defenders. "Ensuring that the Mexican wolf recovery program is successful is vital because wolves help maintain fundamental ecological processes that are the foundation of a balanced, healthy wilderness."

Under Endangered Species Act provisions, translocating the Mexican wolves to the Gila Wilderness is an acceptable management technique that could serve the interests of both people and wolves by allowing the animals to be placed in remote areas.

"The Gila Wilderness is our nation’s first officially designated wilderness area," said Miller. "The proposed action is not only critical to the survival and recovery of Mexican wolves, but is essential to ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy true wilderness with a full compliment of native species."

Currently eight Mexican wolves remain in the wild. Before the first release of Mexican wolves into the Blue Range Recovery Area in January 1998, "El Lobo" had been missing from the wild for more than 17 years, having been hunted and slaughtered indiscriminately. Defenders President Rodger Schlickeisen joined Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and others in bringing the first Mexican wolves back to the wild in 1998.

"The public hearings being held today and tomorrow in New Mexico and Arizona offer an opportunity to assure the Mexican wolf recovery program’s success," said Miller. "Anytime wolves can be placed in remote wilderness areas – far from roads, guns and livestock – their probability of survival increases."

Today’s public hearing to discuss the translocation proposal will be held in Reserve, New Mexico at the Community Center at 7:00 p.m. Thursday’s meeting in Silver City, New Mexico, will be held at Western New Mexico University’s Light Hall at 7:00 p.m.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270