The Wolf Conservation Center’s (WCC) efforts to conserve Mexican gray wolves is priority. It’s crunch time for the Mexican wolf, the future of the planet’s most endangered wolf is on shaky ground. Although the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) proposal to change the rules governing the Mexican wolf reintroduction does include ONE step in the right direction, to finally allow direct releases onto a larger area of the wild landscape in the southwest, USFWS will continue to designate Mexican wolves as “experimental, non-essential” and prevent lobos from ever dispersing to last best places for wolves in Grand Canyon region, including northern Arizona and southern Utah, or to northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The problems with this proposal was among the themes over the past few days at the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project‘s awareness raising event – Paseo Del Lobo Big Lake Howliday Campout Weekend.
Joined by dedicated Mexican wolf advocates from Defenders of Wildlife, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, White Mountain Conservation League, Mexicanwolves.org, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Sierra Club, several citizen advocates, individual supporters and filmmakers in the process of filming a Mexican Gray Wolf Documentary, it was an honor to be among the participants in attendance. The event also included many family members. Several young adults and pre-teens were in attendance, as well as one very special six-year-old who also happens to be my daughter. The event took place in Arizona’s Apache National Forest in the Mexican Wolf recovery area and included great activities like wildlife and wolf tracking workshops with wildlife tracking experts, hikes on the Paseo del Lobo trail, and evening talks by a handful of presenters including wildlife biologist Craig Miller who was present at the very first lobo release in 15 years ago, Lobo advocate Roxanne George, wolf activists and conservationists Jean and Peter Ossorio, members from Arizona Fish and Game, and yours truly to discuss the WCC’s role in lobo recovery as a participant in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.
The weekend offered a time to exchange ideas, educate one another, and to recharge in preparation of important work to come. Even though all of us at the three-day pow-wow were dumped on by monsoon rains, close to freezing temperatures, and an uncomfortably close lightning strike that almost charged a good number of us off the ridge overlooking Aldo Leopold’s Green Fire Trail, our spirits were not dampened.
On the final day, several of us revisited the site that inspired some of Aldo Leopold’s most powerful words from his essay “Thinking Like a Mountain.” As I stood on the very spot where this most influential conservation thinker of the twentieth century “reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” it was difficult to fend off emotions of sadness, gratitude, and understanding. Is it possible that Leopold had realized the far-reaching impact his words would have? As I sat where he long ago came to realize the importance of the lobo, I felt as if he had then imagined us walking in his footsteps to behold the inspiration of his revelation. I explained to my daughter why the view was more than breathtaking, and without many words, she seemed to grasp its significance.
“Without wolves, the mountain is sick,” she explained. “The mountain needs wolves.”
She got it. Wolves are a critical keystone species in a healthy ecosystem. By regulating prey populations, wolves enable many other species of plants and animals to flourish. In this regard, wolves “touch” songbirds, beaver, fish, and butterflies. Without predators, such as wolves, the system fails to support a natural level of biodiversity. The mountain gets sick.
“I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.”
This year marks the 15 year anniversary of the first releases of Mexican wolves back into the wild in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. I look forward to honoring the lobo and their recovery again, and to be greeted by the howls that these mountains will forever understand.
Please do what you can to assist in lobo recovery and take this opportunity to submit your comment to USFWS re: the new proposed rule for Mexican gray wolf management. This proposal is extremely important to the future of Mexican wolves, and in order for this endangered species to recover in the wild, USFWS needs to give these wolves a real chance for recovery by allowing for more direct releases of breeding pairs into additional areas of the southwest. We owe these wolves a chance.