PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission (Commission) today voted 3-1 to continue both its financial and infrastructure support of Mexican wolf conservation in the state, but voted not to support the release of any new wolves until the federal government completes certain critical planning measures. Previously, all initial releases of captive Mexican wolves in the U.S. have occurred in Arizona with the concurrence and support of the Game and Fish Department.
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest region, appeared before the Commission to discuss Mexican wolf conservation and answer the Commission’s questions.
After more than an hour of hearing public comments, Commission Chairman Robbie Woodhouse invited retired Game and Fish Endangered Species Coordinator Terry Johnson to provide input based on Johnson’s 28-year career and extensive involvement in Arizona’s wolf program from the beginning.
“After hearing from a wide range of interested constituents, I invited Mr. Johnson to provide his opinion after being a part of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program in Arizona since its inception,” says Chairman Woodhouse. “At the conclusion of the agenda item, two things were certain: passion for wolves on all sides runs very deep, and the Game and Fish Commission will continue to strongly support Mexican wolf conservation in the state, including by providing financial resources.”
The Mexican wolf reintroduction program has been operating on a recovery plan from 1982. Two efforts to revise the recovery plan have been attempted in the past, and currently a new team is being convened to prepare a new recovery plan. Planning measures requested by the Commission include completion of a Mexican wolf recovery plan, environmental impact statement and the 10(j) nonessential population rule for endangered species.
The last initial release of wolves took place in 2008. Since the wolf reintroduction effort began in 1998, 19 initial releases have taken place with Game and Fish’s support (not including translocation of wolves).
To learn about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s role in the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction, visit www.azgfd.gov/wolf.