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AZ: Ranchers, officials take aim at wolf recovery program, EPA


KINGMAN — The federal government was as much a target as the Mexican wolf in a town hall held Monday.

The county supervisors held a public hearing on the Mexican wolf recovery program, which includes taking the gray wolf off the endangered species list and adding the Mexican wolf to that list. The supervisors unanimously oppose introducing the Mexican wolf into Mohave County.

John Oakleaf, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gave a slideshow to the board of supervisors of the federal program to introduce the wolf into New Mexico and Arizona, including a part of Mohave County. Wolves run in a pack of two to 11, covering an area 30 to 700 square miles. A Mexican wolf can weigh from 50 to 80 pounds and have up to five pups.

The federal government proposes to introduce captured Mexican wolves on public land in central and eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. The range also includes a sliver of southeastern Mohave County. Other areas of wolf reintroduction are in northern Michigan and the northern Rockies. There are an estimated 75 Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. Mexico introduced the wolf into that country in 2011.

An 11-member committee consisting of cattle ranchers, environmentalists and county officials would be formed to create a trust fund that would compensate ranchers for the loss of livestock. Federal grant money and private donations would also go into the fund.

Public comment will be taken before a draft environmental impact statement is created. More public comments will be gathered before a final EIS.

Arizona Game and Fish Department endangered species coordinator Jon Cooley said one issue is the impact of the wolf on game such as elk.

Apache County Sup. Barry Weller and Doyle Shamley, natural resource coordinator for Apache County, also spoke of the rights of citizens and ranchers to protect their livestock and the impact of the wolf in that county. Both said the federal government has monopolized the decisions and does not include local interests.

Shamley showed graphic photos of calves and pets mauled by a wolf and a photo of a caged school bus stop needed to protect children from wolves in Apache County. He also spoke of the overreach of the federal government.

Navajo County Sup. Sylvia Allen also spoke of the need to reform the Environmental Protection Act and the endangered species act to protect individual rights and the economic cost of placing plants, owls, snakes and other animals on the endangered species list.

Arizona Rep. Doris Goodale, R- District 5, also spoke of the federal government’s overreach, criticizing the millions of dollars spent for bridges on Highway 93 near Hoover Dam for bighorn sheep to cross over. She also spoke of the need to protect ranchers.

Larry Adams of Bullhead City told the board he opposes the expansion of the wolf habitat into the county. He also said the time frame to gather public comment was inadequate. The deadline for comment on the reclassification of the Mexican wolf and the boundaries of the proposed area was pushed back to the end of the year.

Several dozen county ranchers were on hand opposing the recovery efforts. One speaker said that wolves cannot co-exist with humans and the best place for the Mexican wolves is in Mexico. Another Bullhead City resident said wild animals should only be kept in zoos and not in the wild. Others spoke of the economic impact from the loss of cattle and elk.