Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Arizona HCM 2008 – Arrogance at Its Best

The House of Representatives in the State of Arizona has passed House Concurrent Memorial 2008 in which the US Congress is being petitioned to allow the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to take over mountain lion management within the boundaries of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kofa Wildlife Refuge. This is good ole boy arrogance at its best, the western “I don’t give a damn about the Feds or the courts” attitude that still prevails out here all too much. It is a blatant attempt to re-institute the Kofa mountain lion hunt in an attempt to ensure the safety of the bighorn sheep population, or so it has been said. There is absolutely no science behind that statement and it also shows the same 19th Century thinking that resulted in the unbalanced ecosystems the West is still suffering from today, i.e., that predators do not deserve the same priority in the ecosystem that tamer game animals do. Not only is such thinking stupid but it’s cowardly. If you’re afraid of being in the wilderness even with a gun, stay at home!

Included below is the text of the Arizona resolution. Below that is the text from a letter I wrote my Congressman tonight opposing the HCM. I urge everyone who gives a damn about protecting the ecosystem and mountain lions in particular to write your Congressman and object. After all, Arizona opened the door to Nationwide involvement with their HCM; let’s give them some!

HCM 2008

Introduced by
Representatives Weiers JP, Nelson, Senators Aguirre, Gorman, Miranda, O'Halleran: Representatives Campbell CL, Groe, Kavanagh, Senators Allen, Arzberger, Blendu, Flake, Gould, Hale, Johnson


A CONCURRENT MEMORIAL

urging the united states congress to take immediate action to allow the arizona game and fish commission to recover the kofa national wildlife refuge desert bighorn sheep population.


To the Congress of the United States of America:
Your memorialist respectfully represents:

Whereas, the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was created primarily in response to concerns for historic declines in desert bighorn populations throughout the west, and the refuge is critical to the health of desert bighorn sheep; and

Whereas, the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge desert bighorn sheep population has declined from 800 sheep in 2000 to 390 sheep in 2006, as documented through extrapolation of data from surveys conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge; and

Whereas, the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is the primary source of desert bighorn sheep, mexicana subspecies, throughout the southwestern portion of the United States; and

Whereas, the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge has served as the primary resource for repatriation of desert bighorn sheep to mountain ranges in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado and has repatriated at least 513 desert bighorn sheep in 25 of the past 49 years since transplanting began; and

Whereas, the decline in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge sheep herd coincides with periods of drought and a known increase in the resident population of mountain lions on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge; and

Whereas, the current population of Kofa desert bighorn sheep is inadequate to support continuing repatriation; and

Whereas, failure to take immediate action will likely result in further decline and threaten the viability of the Kofa herd; and

Whereas, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has a trust responsibility under title 17, Arizona Revised Statutes, to manage all wildlife in Arizona; and

Whereas, although the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is mandated to manage the natural resources of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, its authority with respect to wildlife management is limited to migratory and endangered species; and

Whereas, since neither desert bighorn sheep nor mountain lions are migratory or endangered, the responsibility for their management rests principally with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and immediate management action is needed to secure the health and viability of the Kofa desert bighorn sheep population.

Wherefore your memorialist, the House of Representatives of the State of Arizona, the Senate concurring, prays:

1. That the United States Congress take immediate action to reaffirm the Arizona Game and Fish Commission's position as the lead agency in the management of nonmigratory and nonendangered state wildlife.

2. That the Arizona Game and Fish Commission employ, without any unnecessary delays, burdens or obstacles, all management tools and measures necessary to recover the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge desert bighorn sheep population, including the management of predators, water developments, human intervention and the potential for disease epizootics.

3. That the Secretary of State of the State of Arizona transmit copies of this Memorial to the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, each Member of Congress from the State of Arizona and the Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.


©2007 Arizona State Legislature.

Some additional information on HCM 2008:

http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/48leg/1r/bills/hcm2008o.asp

Here’s the text of the letter I wrote to Congressman Nick Lampson opposing the same:

Honorable Nick Lampson
436 Cannon HOB

Washington DC 20515

Dear Congressman Lampson,

The Arizona House of Representatives recently passed House Concurrent Memorial 2008. This resolution asks the US Congress to authorize the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to take over management of mountain lions currently protected by the Kofa Wildlife Refuge managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I am writing to voice my strong opposition to such a move.

The real reason behind the request is to sidestep Federal court rulings that have brought into question the practice of allowing hunts within the protected areas US wildlife refuges are supposed to be. In response to that ruling, the management in USFWS halted all hunting within their refuges, including a proposed mountain lion hunt advocated and supported by the chair of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. If there was ever a hunt that needed to be stopped, it is the mountain lion hunt within Kofa. The “population” of cats at this point appears to be five animals, of which two are kittens, one is a female, and two are adult males. This is hardly a viable population for any purpose.

The bigger problem within the US Fish and Wildlife Service is the lack of science that supports their hunting policies. Indeed, the court rulings imply that the agency’s wildlife management policies are defective. It is my belief that an independent committee of scientists, biologists, and wildlife managers is needed to examine what has been happening within the country’s wildlife refuges, especially with regard to the allowance of hunting within wildlife refuge boundaries. It would not be the first time that external and independent committees have been charted to examine what a Federal agency has been doing; indeed, it amazes me sometimes that wildlife and other interior departments seem to be somewhat exempt from that type of scrutiny.

For the Kofa hunt in particular, there appears to be absolutely no scientific basis to allow hunting with such a small population of mountain lions. Supposedly, the USFWS was only going to allow the killing of one cat per year (which has to make one wonder about the validity of a hunt in the first place) and hunters were restricted to killing one of the adult males. I can tell you from personal experience that telling a male and female mountain lion apart from anything more than a few feet away is damn near impossible. Killing the female would possibly also result in the death of her kittens; but even if they did survive, it would raise serious doubts whether any more kittens would be born within the refuge.

Just on a cursory examination, it is also impossible that these mountain lions alone are responsible for the decrease in numbers of desert bighorn in the Kofa refuge claimed by the HCM. There is no science to support that claim, only the desire of hunters to justify their mountain lion hunting within the refuge.

I have no objection to mountain lion hunting when the impact on the population is sustainable and when there is good science to support the survivability of the species. However, the idea that bighorn sheep deserve a place in the evolutionary chain more than the mountain lion is dangerous, naïve, and old fashioned thinking that has already done its share of damage on the ecosystems of our West, of which Texas is a part. I ask you to oppose the Arizona HCM 2008 and the Kofa mountain lion hunt, in particular. I also ask you to institute one or more independent oversight committees to examine wildlife management policies of the US Fish and Wildife Service especially as they relate to hunting in our preserves.

Thank you for your time.
__________________________________________________________________
If you care about the fate of the mountain lion, I urge you to write your Congressman today!

I’ll let you all know what I hear back.

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