Industry groups intervene in trapping lawsuit
To protect the businesses and livelihoods of their memberships, groups representing hunters, fishermen, agriculture, trappers, and rural communities and economies have intervened in a lawsuit filed by the WildEarth Guardians against the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF).
The New Mexico Trappers Association (NMTA), New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA), New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc., New Mexico Federal Lands Council, New Mexico Council of Outfitters & Guides, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, Coalition of Arizona/ New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth, and United Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, Inc. joined the lawsuit which would prohibit trapping in southwestern New Mexico in the Mexican Grey Wolf Recovery Area. The New Mexico Houndsmen as well as the Northern and the Southern New Mexico Chapters of the Safari Club assisted with funding. The Safari Club International also filed an Amicus Brief in support of the state.
“The big difference between our memberships and the WildEarth Guardians is that our members have everything to lose in this situation, and environmentalists have nothing at stake. If residents of southwestern New Mexico lose the ability to trap, they lose their ability to make a living ranching, hunting, trapping or outfitting—not to mention generations of tradition,” said NMCGA President Rex Wilson, Carrizozo. “No environmentalists’ family businesses or lifelong investments are at risk in this situation.”
The WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit claims that by allowing trapping of viable furbearer populations in the wolf recovery area, NMDGF
is allowing harm to the non-essential, experimental Mexican Grey Wolf, despite the fact that trapping the species is not allowed, Wilson explained. The federal reintroduction program for the Mexican Grey Wolf began in 1994.
“To date, millions of our tax dollars have been spent to reintroduce this predator, which is still struggling in the wild almost 20 years later,” said David Reese, United Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife president, Belen. “The WildEarth Guardians are trying to use trapping as an excuse for the failure of the reintroduction program, which has been a monumental waste of time and resources since the beginning.”
Rural southwestern New Mexico’s economy is based on ranching, hunting, guiding and outfitting, all of which would be threatened if the lawsuit was successful. “Ranchers must have the ability to protect their livestock to stay in business,” said Bebo Lee, New Mexico Federal Lands Council president, Alamogordo. “Dealing with wolves on their operations has been hard enough on these ranchers—it’s too much to ask that they sacrifice even more of their herds to other predators.”
Hunting and trapping have a long history in New Mexico, as a family tradition, as a tool for wildlife management, and in many cases, a successful livelihood. Despite the impacts of the wolf reintroduction program to the deer and elk herds in the Gila National Forest, guiding and outfitting is a big business, with a big impact on rural counties.
“The survival of our members’ businesses, and their ability to feed their families, depend on healthy wildlife populations, and that means balanced management which in-
cludes predator control,” said Marc Kincaid, New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc. president, Hope. “Aside from the potential financial impacts to our members and the small-town businesses they help support, it’s just irresponsible to put wildlife management in the hands of environmentalists and animal rights groups in Santa Fe whose only concerns are filing lawsuits and limiting land use.”
“This lawsuit has the potential to alter science-based game management everywhere. The suit is designed to take game management out of the hands of states and move it to the courts. WildEarth now chastises the New Mexico Game Department for using sportsmen’s dollars, not tax dollars, to defend New Mexicans and New Mexico’s wildlife against a frivolous lawsuit. In court documents, they seek to deny participation of an international conservation group, the Safari Club International, in the litigation process. It seems to be alright for the ‘guardians’ to squander millions of sportsmen’s and taxpayer dollars to advance their spiritual beliefs through court actions but, the very people that have paid the bills for wildlife recovery and management over the last century can’t play in their ‘sand box;’ how ludicrous is that?” asked Tom Mc- Dowell president NMTA, Corrales. “Western states are dealing with the devastating impacts of forests being managed by the courts and anticonsumptive use groups. New Mexico and Arizona saw the largest fires in history in 2011 and we just set two more records in the past few weeks. If WildEarth were to prevail with its current action, New Mexicans can say goodbye to their wildlife, too.” — WLJ