The Cochise County Board of Supervisors has agreed to send a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke requesting more financial resources be committed to efforts to recover the Mexican wolf.
At its regular meeting on June 12, the Board heard a presentation from Pascal Berlioux, Executive Director of the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (EACO), regarding the inadequate compensation for communities and agencies involved in the project. The EACO members are Cochise, Apache, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, and Navajo Counties.
“The Eastern Arizona Counties are uniquely affected by the Mexican Wolf Recovery program…due to the facts that a large part of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area is located within the Eastern Arizona Counties,” the letter states. “A large portion of the depredations on farm and domestic animals inflicted by Mexican wolves take place within the Eastern Arizona Counties and a large proportion of the negative economic impacts of the Mexican Wolf Recovery plan is borne by the rural ranching community.”
Berlioux said the annual $200,000 funding for compensation to ranchers in both Arizona and New Mexico is around 10 percent of actual costs. As of 2017, it is estimated the program has cost $38 million, with the current Mexican wolf population thought to be 114.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts to conserve Mexican wolves in the southwestern United States in 1977 and released the first wolves into the wild in 1998.
“We currently have a situation that makes no business sense whatsoever,” said Berlioux. “Funding for this program is not sustainable.”
The Board unanimously agreed to send a letter to Secretary Zinke, asking him to consider a fairer compensation plan for the communities hosting the recovery program, and the State agencies managing it.
In other business the Board approved formal, written agreements between the County and the Cochise Amateur Radio Association and the Eastern Arizona Amateur Radio Society to place communications equipment on County radio towers at Mule Mountain, Bernadino Peak, and Dos Cabezas.
“These groups have been very active in supporting public safety in Cochise County,” said Emergency Services Coordinator Norm Sturm, adding the County had previously maintained a “handshake agreement” with the two organizations.
The written agreements will be effective for one year with automatic annual renewals for up to 10 years.