Opposition to wolf plan growing around Arizona

It is common knowledge that the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, and a lot of local residents, are not in favor of the wolf introduction plan that is being proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But there is also another huge groundswell of opposition gathering around the state that many might not be aware of.

That group is a lot of Arizona's sportsmen and conservation groups.

The effort is being spearheaded by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Council, a conservation organization that has 16 member organizations with several thousand members statewide. This group has put together a resolution of support for the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Commission on managing Mexican gray wolves in Arizona.

This from Jim Unmacht, president of the AZSFWC: "The AZSFWC believes it is important to have as many organizations as possible sign on to this resolution supporting management of wolves in Arizona, by our own Game & Fish Department, and not by the federal authorities or the courts, as many environmental groups would like to see."

Currently there are 20 conservation groups from around the state that have signed on to the resolution, including the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Arizona Deer Association, Coconino Sportsman and most recently, the Mohave Sportsman Club.

Other groups who have agreed to sign to the resolution, which will be presented to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission at their Sept. 6-7 meeting, include the Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Chapter of the SCI, and the Arizona chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Those groups represent a lot of sportsmen from all over Arizona, and shows there is real opposition to the federal government's proposed plan to expand designated wolf reintroductions into more of Arizona.

The AZSFWC has also written a three-page letter to the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Daniel Ashe, addressing the proposed action by service.

The letter reads, in part: "The service must develop and consider, and allow the public to review and consider current information on the full range of possible economic impacts throughout the states of Arizona and New Mexico, not just within a narrower portion of both states."

AZSFWC also asked that, "The Service must describe the potential effects, both positive and negative (regarding wolf protection, management and on human activities on the landscape) of changing the current boundaries of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area and of changing any formal or informal management zones within or immediately outside that area within the states of Arizona and New Mexico."

Another concern of the AZSFWC deals with the impacts of wolves on the livestock industry. This even though there are currently no livestock associations who are listed as members of the AZSFWC.

Their comment was, "The Service must describe the methods by which it will enable (and fund) measures to prevent and mitigate losses of livestock or other property to Mexican wolf depredation."

Sportsmen are concerned about the impacts of expanded wolf populations as it relates to the state's big game populations.

One just has to look north at Yellowstone National Park to see how the wolves there have decimated those elk population.

The letter by AZSFWC was also sent to all of Arizona's congressional representatives and Gov. Jan Brewer.

Unmacht noted that there have been more than 19,000 comments sent in to the service. Most are from back East and most are in full support of expanding the wolves into more areas of Arizona.

Unmacht noted, "You sure don't see them advocating wolf releases in Central Park!"

You, as a member of the public, can comment on the service's plan by going to http://www.regulations.gov/#!home. Then under SEARCH, type in docket ID FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073

Time is short to send in your comments. They will only be accepted until Sept. 11.