Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cochise spending thousands to keep endangered wolf out of region

...The wolf, whose U.S. population is in east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico, was given space to roam more widely under a new rule announced in January 2015 by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that expanded their territory south of Interstate 10, into southeastern Arizona. Cochise County is pushing some of the strongest efforts against this expansion of the Mexican gray wolf experimental population area, where wolves released from captivity are allowed to live. There are no wolves in Cochise County now. But that hasn’t stopped the county from spending tens of thousands of dollars on an effort to fight the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule. Many of the arguments come down to sharing space. Board Chairman Richard Searle believes that introducing wolves into the region will put stress on ranchers and their livestock. The wolf’s diet consists 80 percent of elk, of which there are few in Cochise County, said Sherry Barrett, the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The other 20 percent includes animals such as deer, rabbits and possibly livestock. “Without a prey base, it’s not only unfair to our residents who have domestic livestock and pets and whatnot, but it’s also unfair to the wolf,” said Searle, who’s been on the county’s Board of Supervisors for 12 years. In mid-March, the Sierra Vista Herald reported that the county allocated more than $64,000 toward natural-resource issues. One of those concerned the wolf’s expanded range. The county has paid about $36,000 toward a lawsuit filed by the coalition of Arizona and New Mexico counties against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Cochise County joined the lawsuit after the wolf’s territory was expanded, the Herald wrote. The lawsuit also includes private organizations, such as the Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association. The litigation, which has no initial hearing date according to Barrett, argues against the experimental zone’s expansion as well as a “restrictive” rule that, among other things, requires ranchers who “take” a wolf — which includes harming, shooting or killing it — to report it within 24 hours.  More than $24,000 of the $36,000 was spent to hire a consulting firm, which produced a 189-page document that became the foundation of the county’s arguments. Cochise County Supervisor Ann English has mixed feelings about the county’s involvement in the lawsuit...more

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