Home Featured Story Forest road closures and wolves –

Forest road closures and wolves –

What does this all mean and what are we doing about it?

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Mexican gray wolves
Mexican gray wolves picture from US Fish & Wildlife website.

The Citizens for Multiple Land Use and Access (CMLUA) held a meeting on September 17 and 18 at the X Diamond Ranch, near Greer, AZ, for members of the Arizona State Legislature and other agencies regarding forest road closures and wolves. This group formed in 2006 to fight the Travel Management Rules in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forests and for the most part were successful in their endeavors.

However, there are gates continually being installed in the same forests. Newly revised Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Land Management Plan and final Environmental Impact Statement was recently released by the US Forest Service so, maybe that has something to do with it.

According to John Tate, resident of Heber-Overgaard and CMLUA member, “Once those gates are locked it’s almost impossible to get them open. And the ability for public oversight of the continual release of wolves by the US Fish and Wildlife Service is done.” Therefore, the two issues are integrally connected.

President of the CMLUA, John Bennett, told the attendees that nine gates have been installed on Forest Service roads which, if closed, may inhibit fire fighters’ efforts. Plus, some of the roads are the only access to private property. Bennett stated, “There are 784 miles of closed roads in the Coconino Forest and 136 miles of those roads have been destroyed just this year.” In other words, the forest road is gated, then closed and eventually destroyed by the US Forest Service.

What is the purpose of installing the gates if not to eventually close them? Older citizens and people with disabilities will not be able to visit various areas of the forests if there’s no road access. Plus, these lands were set aside for use and enjoyment for the American Public. Is there another reason behind all of these closures—perhaps, one more sinister? One would only need to read the manifestos of radical environmentalists, many of whom have been educated in the religion of “save the planet (from ourselves)” who now work in federal and state agencies and court systems.

As we’ve discussed many times in this publication Mexican gray wolf releases have been continuing by the US Fish and Wildlife Service without consideration of the compromise offered up by stakeholders last year. The latest releases are to be in Young located in Pleasant Valley. We now hear but have not confirmed that there are more wolf releases planned for the Heber-Overgaard area.

In Catron County, NM in May 2015, a male Mexican gray wolf displayed continuing “nuisance” behavior, so it was removed. In this case the nuisance behavior meant the wolf was lacking fear of humans. This wolf had been involved in several close encounters with people. If you want to know how it goes when there are a whole lot more wolves, talk to people in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. My nephew was in Idaho two years ago when he was warned not go outside without his firearm because the wolves lie in wait on the perimeters of the property.

John Tate speaking on wolves
Heber resident John Tate speaking in Young on ramifications of living with wolves.

Wolves are costly to the communities wherein they exist. John Tate figures at the current rate of wolf releases in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forests, we have ten years at most before most of our elk and deer are gone because of wolf predation. “Ranchers and sportsman are being put in a situation that is not survivable,” Tate said. “We have to do away with the practice of “sue and settle” by environmental groups in order to get more control over our lives. The ESA, EPA and many federal judges are in the pocket of the environmental movement and oversight is needed to curb the abuses. And, one way to do this, is to support Congressman Gosar’s bill to remove control of the wolves from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The CMLUA meeting concluded with a tour of the forest including areas of the Wallow Fire.
A few weeks ago it was reported that the New Mexico Game Commission denied an appeal by US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding releasing more wolves on federal land in their state. Then just a few days ago, environmental groups put out a press release claiming a genetic crisis threatens unique Southwestern wolves with extinction urging Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to release five or more packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico through the end of this year and into 2016. They claim without such releases chances of recovery for the species will be crippled. The genetic integrity of the Mexican gray wolf has been in question since the beginning of the project and to have it come up now is a fallacy just like the spotted owl fallacy. If you repeat a lie long enough eventually people believe it. Here’s a quote from the press release: “When you have only a handful of founders and limited genetics to recover a species, you cannot afford to take your time with recovery efforts,” said Maggie Howell of the Wolf Conservation Center, which houses and breeds Mexican wolves for reintroduction. “The wolves are ready and the wild is calling. It’s time to release some lobos.” By the way, the Wolf Conservation Center is in New York.

Jess Carey is someone who has witnessed the devastating consequences of wolves in the ranching communities of Catron County, New Mexico. In 2011 he helped write an informational booklet entitled “Collateral Damage Identification” for people who lived in areas where the wolves had not been present in the past so they could identify wolf presence when it occurred. He stated, “Many rural family ranchers have lost their peace of mind, lost their dreams, lost their pursuit of happiness, lost their livestock and lost their ranches. ‘Collateral Damage Identification’ seemed appropriate. All damage was due to non-compensated wolf-caused livestock losses, a “taking” by Federal wolves administered by Federal agencies and our own New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. These agencies will and have pushed Mexican Wolf Recovery forward knowing that their wolves are destroying family rancher’s ability to survive, in the end selling off their ranches. In fact, lost family ranchers are collateral damage to achieve Mexican Wolf Recovery.”

How do the citizens of Navajo and Apache County fight the road closures? How do we stop more wolf releases? Representative Paul Gosar is working on bill H. R. 2910 which among other things rescinds the final rule entitled ‘Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, Revision to the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf’ published by US Fish and Wildlife in January 2015. This is the ruling that increases the number of wolves to 300 in NM and AZ. That is collared wolves – there were at the end of 2014, 109 collared wolves but they don’t count the non-collared. Truth be told, we’re already close to the 300 mark and they want to release more. Here. In Heber-Overgaard.

There is a group of citizens in Young and Tonto Basin that are building a grass roots movement to put an end to these wolf releases. Woody Cline, President of the Young coalition, said that the groups behind them right now are AZ Deer Society, AZ Deer Foundation, AZ Elk Society, Gila County Supervisors, Gila County Cattle Growers, AZ State Cattle Growers, Congressman Gosar’s office and the State Director of Agriculture. They have held two public meetings, one in Pleasant Valley and the other in Tonto Basin. They are holding informational meetings in Globe, Payson, Pine and Christopher Creek and whereever else they can get the word out.

Per Cline, “We have high hopes of getting something done. We are here and we are going to keep pushing against this program that has harmed so many folks and cost taxpayers millions of dollars – And we need your support.”

Look up this map: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/RWL.cfm. In the search box put in Overgaard, AZ and it will bring up a box on the map that say we’re in Game Management Unit 3C, “MW Occupied Range 2014”. Yep, I’d say that’s proof enough. Heber-Overgaard citizens need to band together to fight this affront on our economy, lifestyle, personal freedoms, safety and well-being. Local Heber residents and members of Big Game Forever, Cindy and Rich Krug, have stepped up to help organize our community to join in this fight with fellow citizens of Young and Tonto Basin. Stay tuned…