The Cattle Growers of Graham and Cochise counties met in Willcox earlier this month, and the hot topic remains the Mexican wolf.
Before we go any further, yes, we realize that cattle are raised, not grown. We didn’t name the group, so please stop hammering us on Facebook, OK?
Anyway, the group heard about the effort to remove any cap on the wolf population, as well as define its territory as the whole state.
In this region, Greenlee County ranchers have been hit the hardest by the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program, as the Blue Range Primitive Area was ground zero for the wolves’ reintroduction. At this time, there are no Mexican wolves in Cochise County.
However, that hasn’t stopped Cochise County from wanting federal compensation if a rancher loses stock to a wolf. Earlier this month, the County Board of Supervisors agreed to join with the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization in seeking a compensation package from the Department of the Interior.
Arizona Game and Fish estimates it needs about $2 million annually, which would include compensation to ranchers. Currently, U.S. Fish and Wildlife doles out about $200,000 a year, and that includes prevention grants as well as some compensation.
Since the reintroduction program began in 1998, Arizona ranchers have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the plan, specifically noting that the wolf’s primary habitat is actually Mexico, not America.
We have to be honest and say we have no problem with efforts to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction. Each creature is important to this planet, even if it may make our lives a bit uncomfortable or impact profit and loss.
While we may have an irrational fear of alligators (those things are living dinosaurs!) and never want to encounter one live (hence our living in the desert Southwest), we understand their importance to the ecosystem of the Gulf States.
The same goes for the wolf. We believe its population growth should be helped . . . with at least 90 percent in Mexico. Subjecting Arizona ranchers to what is, historically, a non-native predator creates undue hardship.
The wolf has struggled to gain a foothold in the recovery area designated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, hovering around a population of 100. Which should go as an evidence of the folly of trying to establish the population outside its traditional habitat.
Ranchers, like farmers, are the lifeblood of America — they keep us fed and clothed. Ranching is hard enough, and requires so much up-front capital, that the government shouldn’t make things any more difficult for these hardworking men and women.
The Board of Supervisors took the correct action in demanding more help from the federal government if the federal government is going to continue to try to force the wolf into this region. Our representatives at the state level, notably Sen. Gail Griffin and Rep. Drew John, have also gone on record in the fight against wolf incursion on ranchers.
We’d like to see our federal representatives step up to try get the Interior Department to see the folly of this exercise. Reps. Martha McSally and Tom O’Halleran serve the areas designated in the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program — they need to take the lead on the issue.
Given the current administration’s desire to do away with existing environmental policy, we’re surprised McSally hasn’t made this a cornerstone of her campaign for the U.S. Senate. Granted, we’re not Tucson, so not a lot of attention comes our way, but this seems like it would be an easy win.