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Balancing Applause and Inquiry: The New Lobo Livestock Standards


The recent announcement of the newly proposed wolf-livestock standards for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico deserves our recognition and respect, especially for the groups like The Western Watersheds Project who have worked so hard to push these issues to the forefront. These standards represent a significant stride in addressing the challenges between wolves and ranching, laying the foundation for a more harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife.

Yet, as informed citizens, it’s equally important to ensure comprehensive solutions. A deep dive into last year’s article from The Intercept examining fraud within the program provides some compelling points to consider alongside the jubilation.

Firstly, let’s contextualize the issue: an astounding 88% of predation incidents were attributed to Mexican wolves on grazing allotments in specific areas like the Gila National Forest. To give you some perspective, the national average hovers around 4%. Further, a staggering 97% of these reported incidents lead to compensations. Carter Niemeyer, a veteran in the field and former Wildlife Services district supervisor, has openly expressed skepticism about these figures. Such high predation rates, like the claims by Rainy Mesa Ranch, have been met with incredulity by experts.

“We’re happy to see these standards tighten, of course,” said Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians in yesterday’s press release. “But extremely endangered species were wrongly killed before this improvement. And history suggests corruption and a deep-seated antagonism to wolves within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

This segues into another key concern: the criteria for establishing wolf attacks. Currently, two puncture points, supposedly corresponding to the canine width of a Mexican wolf, serve as a substantial determinant. However, research from 2018 indicates that such marks can easily be attributed to other carnivores. Niemeyer’s standpoint on this is clear: “tooth spacing by itself doesn’t mean anything.” It’s imperative to establish a more robust methodology to ensure accurate attributions.

Compensating ranchers for legitimate losses is generally agreed upon. However, any ambiguity in the assessment process creates potential pitfalls, not just for the wolves. Moreover, such inconsistencies often lead to financial burdens on the taxpayer’s shoulders.

Efforts of individuals like Gosnell, striving for more rigorous checks, are noteworthy. Their experiences, especially the resistance they’ve faced, emphasize the need for transparency and accountability in the process. The call by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., for a USDA investigation of Wildlife Services underscores this very sentiment.

Wolves, especially the Mexican “lobos,” have a tumultuous history. Poaching and other challenges continue to imperil their existence, even with reintroduction efforts in place since 1998. In this backdrop, the new standards for wolf-livestock interactions shine as a beacon of hope. We echo Mary Katherine Ray’s words from the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, “Our small but beautiful wolf subspecies, the Mexican Wolf, bears the burden of so much undeserved hatred.” We hope that these new standards, will pave the way for a brighter future for the Mexican gray wolf. A future where they roam free without undue blame, and a world that understands and respects their indispensable role in our ecosystem.

While the latest standards are a commendable step forward, it’s crucial that we stay vigilant. We need to ensure a system that’s transparent, equitable, and beneficial for all stakeholders involved – the ranchers, the wolves, and the larger community. Our commitment should be towards a sustainable and harmonious coexistence. We’ll be keeping a close watch on developments, and we urge our readers to do the same. Want more info on wolves and how you can get involved? Join our newsletter for updates.