N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

This is your Official Spring Tour of the Endangered Species Act

Your tour guide was going to make this a western tour, but once I threw in wolves it became international.  Set your seats back to the resting level and I hope you enjoy this exploration of what Congress has brought you through the Endangered Species Act (ESA).


Last June the USFWS proposed delisting the gray wolf (but not the Mexican grey wolf). The proposal would have turned wolf management over to the states. The feds received over 30,000 comments on their proposal including those challenging the science used. Scientists at USFWS had written a paper calling for a taxonomic revision. The Service claims that, historically, the United States was home to another wolf species (Canis lycaon), which would mean the historic range of our modern wolves (Canis lupus) didn’t include most of the eastern half of the U.S.  This paper was not peer reviewed and was challenged by many. The Service then requested a panel review the science and the panel came back with a finding the proposal was not based on the best available science. Robert Wayne, a canid geneticist at UCLA who sat on the independent review panel says, “I can’t think of another endangered species which has been delisted because of a taxonomic revision. In this case the taxonomic revision is questionable. It seems like a convenient way for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf in 22 eastern states.” As a result the Service has reopened the comment period to March 27.

On the Mexican grey wolf, the Service recently announced the number of wolves had jumped to 83, a roughly ten percent increase. Arizona Game and Fish Director Larry Voyles noted “this is the third year of a greater-than-10-percent increase in the wolf population.” “Equally important to the population growth” says Voyles, “is the fact that now 100 percent of the Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico are wild-born.” The biologists conducted an aerial survey and found 46 wolves in New Mexico and 37 in Arizona. Some of the wolves born in the wild and not collared would have gone undetected, so there are more than 83 of the critters out there.

Meanwhile, elk hunters in Idaho have formed the Foundation for Wildlife Management to pay trappers to trap wolves.  They say trapping is a more effective wolf management tool than hunting, as hunters have a success rate of less than 1 percent, while trappers enjoy a success rate near 25 percent. They also say trapping is expensive and that is why they’ve formed this cooperative to pay trappers. People can join the group for $35. Those who join and successfully trap a wolf can submit their expenses and be reimbursed up to $500 per wolf.

Obama, fish and water

The President recently traveled to Fresno, Ca. to announce a drought relief package and speak of the impact of global warming. Unmentioned was the delta smelt. As a result of environmentalist litigation in 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recalled a permit allowing farmers to use irrigation pumps in the Sacramento Delta, claiming the pumps were a direct threat to the delta smelt fish. A previous permit had come to the opposite conclusion. From December 2012 to February 2013 alone, more than 800,000 acre-feet of water that could have been conserved behind dams was allowed to flow to the sea. That water could have provided for the needs of 800,000 families. It could have irrigated 200,000 acres of cropland. The Farm Bureau says this one action could eventually result in up to 500,000 acres of crops being lost. Some refer to this as a “green drought” that has nothing to do with global warming.

The delta smelt trumps humans and crops.

FEMA and a mouse

In Colorado the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning that many flood repair projects could be delayed because they are in an endangered mouse’s habitat. That’s the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse which is a threatened species. Colorado State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, has written to Colorado’s congressional delegation asking it to intervene. “We’re holding up the ability to redo safe drinking water, to rebuild sewage treatment facilities so we can keep sewage out of the rivers, trying to have a safe environment because of a mouse,” said Sonnenberg. He explained that communities have to delay repairs after FEMA issued a warning that local governments could lose federal funding if they violate the ESA.

A mouse trumps the safety and health of Colo. families.

The Army, a plant and a bird

Over in Arizona Fort Huachuca is being sued by the enviros. The San Pedro River runs north out of Mexico and travels through southeastern Arizona. The suit claims ground pumping by Fort Huachuca is threatening two endangered species: a rare plant called the Huachuca water umbel, and the Southwestern willow flycatcher. They’ve already succeeded in having a judge throw out an existing biological opinion and this suit is a follow up.

A plant and a bird trump national security.

Timber and a bird

As a result of a lawsuit, the Oregon Dept. of Forestry has agreed to cancel more than two dozen timber sales on state forests because they threaten the survival of a sea bird, the marbled murrelet. The suit claimed the state was in violation of the ESA by failing to protect stands of trees on state forests where threatened marbled murrelets build their nests. News reports said the state was trying to increase logging on state forests “to provide more funding for schools and counties and more logs for local mills.”

A bird trumps school children and jobs.


Was a wolf captured on camera by an athlete at Sochi’s Olympic Village? The pictures posted by American athlete Kate Hansen went viral on the internet. Turns out, though, the whole thing was a hoax by her and The Jimmy Kimmel Show.

They aren’t joking in Italy where farmers are shooting wolves and dumping them in town squares as a protest. In Italy there’s a ban on shooting, trapping and poisoning wolves. Franco Mattei, a sheep farmer, says ‘’Wolves attacked my animals three times in December. The first time, I came across a sheep which had been disemboweled.” The killing of wolves by farmers has been strongly condemned by environmental groups, but they better be careful or Franco may offer them a deal they can’t refuse.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and so you don’t become endangered, check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship (www.nmsu.edu/~duboisrodeo).