Wolf plan raises safety concerns

It is always interesting when I get emails from folks who are concerned about issues that they think may be of interest to me as a sportsman and/or outdoors writer. Sometimes they are about issues that affect me personally, but most often I get them about issues that could adversely impact Mohave County or Arizona.

Recently, I got an email from a local rancher about a proposal by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to introduce wolves into northern Arizona.

This rancher is a livestock producer in Mohave County, and as such stays on top of these kinds of issues.

Then I got an inquiry from another source in the local livestock industry, and finally an email from Mohave County Board of Supervisor Chairman Gary Watson.

They were all interested in the wolf management proposal that the Fish and Wildlife Service had put out for comment. This 200-plus page document, currently in draft form, is titled "Environmental Assessment for the Implementation of a Southwestern Gray Wolf Management Plan for Portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas."

Wolves are just as much a danger to the state's wildlife as are bears, mountain lions and coyotes.

Wolves are proven predators of livestock and dogs, and there are a number of documented attacks on humans.

The proposal had sections that were downright alarming. Arizona was carved into three proposed wolf management areas along with what was deemed the "Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area," or MWEPA.

Extremely troublesome to me was that northern Mohave County was listed in Management Zone 1, while the southern part of the county was in the MWEPA.

Watson and I discussed our concerns. I promised to work with the conservation groups, while he said he was going to meet with the local Indian tribes, cattlemen and others interested about this wolf proposal.

Eventually, I spoke with Larry Riley of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, who explained that U.S. Fish and Wildlife had started this process because five Mexican gray wolves had been transplanted by the Mexican government into northern Mexico in 2011.

There was concern that these wolves might move out of Mexico and into the U.S. Plans needed to be made for managing them if, and/or when, they cross the border.

Even though all of those wolves died, more transplants have and continue to be made by the Mexican government in other areas of Mexico.

As Riley put it, "Having rules in place to deal with issues that could be caused by these wolves would just be another management tool in our tool belt for dealing with the problem."

Riley didn't really seem concerned. When I asked why, he replied that the Center for Biological Diversity out of Tucson has already filed suit against the wildlife service over this proposal.

So for now, the proposal may be moot.

But then again, do you always believe what the government tells you?

While I certainly have no issues with Larry Riley and Game and Fish, I sure do have reservations when it comes to some (but not all) federal agencies. And I am especially leery of the wildlife service.

Watson wrote a letter on behalf of Mohave County to the wildlife service about the proposal and demanded that Mohave County be kept in the process.

Personally, I am grateful for the way that Watson became quickly involved in this potentially disastrous issue.

In his letter, Watson refers to the potential negative interaction between the wolves and humans, livestock and wildlife.

I don't know about you, but I sure don't want to see wolves lurking in and around any of our cities or towns or anywhere else in Mohave County. Public safety is paramount here.

And I don't want to see wolves let loose on the landscape in any part of Mohave County to ravage wildlife and livestock.

(Contact Don Martin at awoguide@citlink.net.)