8 Feb 2009, 3:04pm
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Wolves Drain NM Ag Economy

Keeping a watchful eye

By Lynn Allen, Ag Journal, Feb 06, 2009 [here]

Catron County, N.M. — Catron County, N.M., Commissioner Ed Wehrheim had the information, he had the facts and figures, he had the personal experience, and he understood the issue. What he lacked was a way to educate others about it.

Eight years into the Mexican Gray Wolf Reintroduction Project, and millions of dollars in damage to his county later, Wehrheim was ready to stand back and try a new approach.

“Before, we’ve always tried to make them follow their own rules and regulations, and we were losing – losing livestock, losing businesses, losing money,” he said. “So we decided to take a page out of their book and work on public opinion.”

That was the impetus behind Americans for Preservation of the Western Environment (APWE) [here].

“Our object is two fold - educate the public in New Mexico about what the wolf program is doing to their state, and start a fund to help anyone who has legal problems related to the wolf program,” he said. “We have presentations we take to schools, civic groups, business organizations and sporting clubs. We haven’t been turned away yet.”

Included in the presentations are the facts and figures that have been causing Wehrheim, his friends, and neighbors so much frustration.

“The wolf program has cost the American taxpayer $303,000 per wolf. (Game management groups) are claiming 56 wolves at this point. That’s their own figures – what they say they’ve spent. They say 200 wolves in a five year period will attack and kill or maim over 7,000 head of livestock. That’s their figures again,” he said. “As a county commissioner, who’s lived with this program for eight years now, I’d say their numbers are a little low. Closer to 10,000 to 12,000 head would be more accurate – and that’s just livestock. Game animals aren’t counted. When wolves are training pups to hunt, a pack will kill as many animals as possible; far more than they could ever eat.”

“The cost of the Mexican Gray Wolf program to the New Mexico and US economy is well over $60 million in livestock killed, production lost, bankrupt business (outfitters, ranchers, town business), loss of tax revenue, and reduction of tourist visitors, and hunters,” he said. “In current economic conditions, can we stand that?”

While he didn’t have numbers from the wolf programs in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and other states, he noted that those programs have been in place longer so costs are probably even higher.

“Wolves are costing this nation a lot of money,” he said. “The environmental groups who want these programs are a very small minority in the population but they are well organized, well funded, and very vocal. We’re trying to expose some of their misinformation and help people understand what is really going on.”
At this point, APWE is focusing on small to mid-sized towns in and on the edge of wolf program areas. Using presentations and buying half-page ads in newspapers, they have gained 100,000 members in the four months since they became an officially recognized non-profit organization. They hope to expand to urban centers as time and budgets allow.

“We want to network with all the organizations in New Mexico that are working against this wolf program so we can be more effective,” he said. “Eventually, I’d like to see a national organization that exposes the wolf problems all over this nation and that could put pressure on legislators at the national level to stop these programs. But right now, we’re going to start with New Mexico.”

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