Mohave County: We really, really don't like gray wolf plan
10/8/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
KINGMAN - The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is jumping on the "fight the expansion of the Mexican gray wolf's territory" bandwagon.
The Board unanimously voted, for a second time, to pool resources with other Arizona counties to fight the federal government's plan to expand the wolf's territory in Arizona and New Mexico. It also approved another push for "coordinating" status with the federal government.
County Planning Manager Karl Taylor, who prepared a report for the Board on the situation, pointed out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has claimed several times that there is no federal "coordinating" status, but it does offer a cooperating status to local governments.
Cooperating status can give the public the impression that the county is supporting the federal government's plan, even though the Board opposes the plan, Taylor said. Several other counties that also oppose the expansion of the wolves' territory, including those where the wolf has already been introduced, have signed on as cooperating agencies hoping to get a better seat at the table.
"They've seen mixed results," Taylor said.
District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson dismissed Fish and Wildlife's argument and pointed out that the county had used coordinating status in its fight to prevent the U.S. Department of the Interior's removal of more than a million acres of federal land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims for the next 20 years.
"It gives us the best standing," Johnson said. "Fish and Wildlife know (coordinating status is) out there. We just have to invoke it."
To invoke coordinating status, all the Board needs to do is insist that the county be referred to as that status in its memorandum of understanding between it and the federal government, Johnson said.
Supervisors Joy Brotherton, Hildy Angius and Steven Moss pointed out that partnering with the other counties in the state could help cut future legal expenses.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier this year that it was studying the idea of expanding the range that Mexican gray wolves could roam in the state from several thousand acres near the Arizona/New Mexico border to several million acres of land between Interstate 40 and Interstate 10 in both states.
The gray wolf was listed as an endangered species in 1976. At the time, the federal government considered the Mexican gray wolf a subspecies of the gray wolf.
Federal biologists now believe it may be a separate species that deserves its own protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The Mexican gray wolf was reintroduced to the wild from a breeding program in the U.S. in 1998. There are now approximately 75 wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The federal government wants to have at least 100 wolves in the wild before ending the program.
Ranchers and hunters in both states have opposed the expansion of the wolves' territory, claiming it would damage the local economy by killing livestock and the wild game that some tourists come to hunt.
Ranchers in areas where the Mexican gray wolf was reintroduced say they have not been adequately compensated for some of the livestock killed by the wolves.
Elected officials fear the wolves may attack and injure humans or family pets.