Media mogul Ted Turner is a big supporter of the Mexican wolf re-introduction program in New Mexico and Arizona.
But the New Mexico Game Commission is breaking up the relationship.
On his Ladder Ranch near the Gila National Forest, Turner has operated a wolf-holding facility since 1998 to get the captive-bred lobos acclimated before being released into the wild.
On May 7, the game commission denied the Turner Endangered Species Fund a permit to continue operating the program.
Forty-six conservation organizations and wolf-breeding facilities in 13 states are urging New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to reverse the game commission’s decision.
In a letter to Martinez they said, “We find it odd and inappropriate for state government to interfere with philanthropic activities conducted responsibly by a private landowner on private lands to offset expenses that otherwise would be borne by taxpayers.”
Wildlife supporters rallied this week in Sante Fe to put pressure on Martinez to reverse the order. Attendees carried signs and banners, and speakers included former Sante Fe mayor David Cross, Mexican wolf expert David Parsons, and Michael Robinson, author and wolf activist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City.
Robinson said the commission’s decision to end Turners participation was politically motivated to satisfy livestock and hunting interests who oppose the federal wolf re-introduction program.
“Gov. Martinez should tell her game commission to stop playing politics and allow Ted Turner to continue his critically important work helping to recover the endangered Mexican gray wolf,” Robinson said.
But in an interview, Alexa Sandoval, director of New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, explained the permit was denied because the wolf recovery plan is outdated.
“The current plan is from 1982 and does not jive with what is happening on the ground now,” Sandoval said. “The commission wants to know what the ultimate goal of the program is. Once there is an updated plan, the permit for Ladder Ranch will be considered again.”
Future management goals for the wolf keep shifting, she said, going from a target population of 100 wolves in the wild, to a recent federal rule putting it at 300 wolves.
“Without an updated plan, there can be no basis for a decision, so the commission is asking for that information,” Sandoval said.
Mexican wolf population along the New Mexico-Arizona border had been hanging on at around 50 to 70, but have since increased to approximately 110 wolves in the wild.
Turner’s 157,000-acre Ladder Ranch includes five pens that can hold as many as 25 wolves. It serves wolves who have been removed from the wild, and for those who are scheduled for release.
Previously the ranch’s permit had been issued by the director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, but a November 2014 game commission rule required for the first time that permits used in reintroduction of mammalian carnivores be approved by the commission.