EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an editorial submitted by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and does not necessarily represent the views of St. George News.
When people say the wolf is at the door, they are typically using a popular idiom to indicate they have fallen on hard times. But that expression could become more than a figure of speech in southern Utah if the Obama administration has its way.
With the federal government falling short of its goal to reintroduce 100 Mexican wolves in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing to greatly expand their numbers and place them outside their historic range where the consequences could be dire. And the scientists appointed to look at expanding the scope of Mexican wolf reintroduction efforts have Utah’s Dixie squarely in their political crosshairs.
As part of their proposal to “reintroduce” 750 Mexican wolves, these scientists want to have a self-sustaining population of 250 wolves in southern Utah and northern Arizona – places that fall well outside the predators’ historic range. How can you “recover” Mexican wolves in areas where they have not been?
Now I realize geography covers too much ground to be understood by many in Washington. But I expect better from the Administration and its appointed scientists, who are kowtowing to environmental extremists and ignoring multiple scientific studies that confine the northern extent of Mexican wolves’ historic range to Arizona and New Mexico.
Just as egregious, the agency wants to list Mexican wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a “subspecies,” which will prevent Utah and other states from managing the predators if they wander outside of their historic range. Utah wildlife officials say this could lead to a re-listing of gray wolves in parts of Utah where they have just been delisted because the ESA requires unprotected species to be treated as endangered if they look similar to protected species such as Mexican wolves.
Furthermore, the ESA prevents a species like the Mexican wolf from ever being delisted and turned over to the states for management until it is no longer endangered in “all or a significant portion of its range.” Since 90 percent of the Mexican wolf’s historic range is in Mexico, which the Administration’s recovery plan does not address, there is virtually no prospect of that ever happening.
So what would be the consequences to southern Utah? Without any means of controlling the Mexican wolf or protecting livestock, the losses to our state’s farming and ranching industry, which accounts for $1.5 billion in sales every year, would be severe. The same is true of elk and other wildlife in southern Utah. The reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone has taken a big bite out of elk numbers there. Placing a similar number of wolves in and around Utah’s Dixie, where elk and big game animals are not nearly as numerous, is irresponsible. Once the elk are gone, the wolves will move on to livestock – just as gray wolves have and continue to do since their reintroduction in 1995 to Yellowstone and northern Idaho.
It is past time for Washington bureaucrats to turn wolf management over to the dedicated state professionals who have a proven track record of managing elk, deer and other wildlife. The federal government has no business foisting Mexican wolves and other non-native species on Utah. I am committed to continue to do all I can to ensure that they don’t.
Mexican wolves clearly do not belong in Utah. State officials say they don’t want them. Neither do ranchers, sportsmen and others in southern Utah – and they are not just whistling Dixie.
– Sen. Orrin Hatch is a member of the Senate Western Caucus