The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final meeting on how to manage Mexican gray wolves drew hundreds to Pinetop, Ariz. Tuesday night.
They were there to voice concerns over proposed changes to the animal's endangered status.
Ranchers, environmentalists, local citizens and local government organizations with a stake in wolf management were all in attendance.
“It allows us an opportunity to hear from the people we represent,” said Jim DeVos, assistant director for Game and Fish’s Wildlife Management Division. "And in many cases allow them to speak directly to us.”
The wolf’s primary recovery zone is in Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, which surrounds Pinetop, and gives people in the area a unique view of the issue.
They are often concerned with how the wolf will infringe on their lives and livelihoods.
“I was surprised to hear of the people who don’t support wolves,” said Eva Sargent, Southwest program director of Defenders of Wildlife. "How much of the argument is not about the wolves themselves, but about private property rights and the idea of over-reach of the government.”
Fish and Wildlife officials said they favor a proposal that would de-list the gray wolf species, but would keep the Mexican gray wolf listed as an endangered subspecies.
They also intend to keep much of the wolf population listed as “experimental”, allowing for a more hands-on management of the animals, and an increase in the wolf’s secondary recovery zone.
The public can make comment on Fish and Wildlife’s website until Dec. 17.