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1 the mesquite grill news from the southwest environmental center fall 2014 wildmesquite.org SWEC chases coyote killers out of Las Cruces Now it s time to outlaw wildlife killing contests entirely Back by Noon Outings to Explore New Monument As part of its Fall 2014 Back by Noon series, SWEC is offering guided outings to some of the lesser known sites within the newly designated Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. These include forays to Ladera Canyon and Mine House Spring in the Organ Mountains, and to a hidden box canyon in the Robledos. The lineup of trips also features old favorites such as Tonuco Mountain and medicinal plants, as well as a trip to Aztec Cave in the Franklin Mountains, and an all day venture to Otero Mesa. Visit our website (wildmesquite.org) to see the full schedule of outings. Space is limited on most outings. Advance reservations are required. Half the spaces on each outing are reserved for SWEC members. Call for more information. Wildlife advocates protest against Predator Masters annual coyote hunt and convention in Las Cruces. The organizers of the event, which is focused around killing coyotes for fun, said they are moving it to Tucson next year. Earlier this year, the Southwest Environmental Center won a victory in the fight to end wildlife killing contests in New Mexico when a Utah-based group announced it would no longer hold its annual coyote hunt and convention in Las Cruces. Predator Masters said it is moving the event to Tucson. SWEC led the effort to make Predator Masters feel unwelcome in southern New Mexico. More than 90 people turned out for a rally in February held near the hotel where most of its members were staying. The Las Cruces City Council could hardly contain its disgust in passing a resolution unanimously against the event, strongly recommending that Predator Masters seek a location outside the City and Doña Ana County for its annual event in the future. It marked the first time a local government in New Mexico has taken a stand against such events, SWEC also led the effort earlier this year to oust two New Mexico Game Commission members for participating in such a contest in Nevada. The commission chair, Scott Bidegain, later resigned for taking part in the illegal killing of a mountain lion. His resignation would have been less likely had he not already taken heat for the wildlife contest. The larger problem of wildlife killing contests remains. New Mexico ranks fourth among all the states in the number of plants and animals found within its borders, yet nearly half of the state s vertebrate species are not protected by state or federal law. Wildlife killing contests aimed at unprotected species such as coyotes and prairie dogs are perfectly legal. There are no bag limits or seasons to limit the take of these species. Legislation is needed to address the problem. SWEC has made it a priority to get a bill passed at the next NM Legislative Session to ban competitive wildlife killing events. Join us on Sept. 27 A Wild Night... For Wildlife SWEC s annual gala See back page for details.

2 Biologists Say Federal Plan for Mexican Wolves Not Enough to Prevent Extinction There are some good things about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service s (FWS) proposed changes to the way Mexican wolves ( lobos ) are managed in the Southwest, but they aren t enough to prevent one of the most endangered animals in North America from going extinct, say biologists. FWS is proposing several changes to the 16-year old rule that governs the Mexican wolf reintroduction program. These include: 1) Expanding the area where initial releases of wolves born in captivity can occur. Currently such releases are limited to a small area in the mountains of Arizona, which is a major reason why there have been so few releases in recent years (only three new releases of wolves since 2008). SWEC and other conservation groups strongly support this change, which is long overdue and urgently needed to slow the loss of genetic diversity in the wild population, which numbered 83 lobos at the end of ) Allowing wolves to roam and set up territories wherever there is suitable habitat in New Mexico and Arizona between I-40 and the Mexican border. This is also a great improvement over the current policy, which restricts wolves to an area in the mountains of central Arizona and New Mexico called the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. Wolf advocates support this change as well. More Populations Needed North of I-40 But at the same time, FWS wants to keep Mexican wolves from dispersing north of Interstate 40. Any wolves crossing this boundary would be recaptured, preventing them from establishing populations in the Grand Canyon region and the southern Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico. These areas contain plenty of suitable wolf habitat, and are essential to Mexican wolf recovery according to biologists. In both the draft lobo recovery plan (which was never finalized after being leaked by wolf opponents in 2011) and in peer reviewed journals, biologists have argued that Mexican wolf recovery will require the establishment of a metapopulation of at least 750 wolves, comprised of three genetically connected subpopulations of at least 200 wolves each. This could not happen south of I-40 be- FWS is proposing to recapture Mexican wolves that disperse north of I-40, a move that biologists say will prevent full recovery of the endangered lobo. FWS is also proposing to allow releases of captive-born wolves anywhere within the area outlined in orange, a change that SWEC and other wolf advocates strongly support. fall 2014 the mesquite grill page 2

3 Biologists (continued from previous page) Biologists say Mexican wolves will remain endangered until there are at least 750 of them in three separate populations. Photo Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team. cause there isn t enough suitable habitat to support 750 wolves, which FWS admits in the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed rule changes. Wrong time to relax take provisions FWS is also proposing to relax restrictions on when Mexican wolves could be killed. Currently, an individual can take a wolf that is threatening humans or attacking livestock on private land. The agency wants to allow livestock owners to shoot wolves that are attacking livestock on public land, and to allow individuals to shoot wolves that are attacking domestic dogs, something that conservationists say would lead to using dogs as bait to attract wolves and kill them. The result of relaxing take restrictions will inevitably be more wolves killed. If the number of wild wolves were greater that might not be a problem, but due to the loss of genetic diversity in the wild population, every individual wolf has become too important to lose. New Recovery Plan Needed While there are some positive elements in the feds proposal, it is not a road map to recovery for Mexican wolves. The existing recovery plan for lobos, pounded out on a typewriter in 1982, is woefully inadequate and should be updated as soon as possible to incorporate the best available science. A coalition of conservation groups, biologists and captive breeding facilities recently announced their intent to sue to force FWS to do just that. Until a new plan is completed, FWS is putting the cart before the horse with most of its proposed changes. Mexican wolf pups born in the wild...in Mexico This summer wolf advocates celebrated the first documented litter of Mexican gray wolves born in the wild in Mexico in more than 30 years. Mexican wolves have been missing from Mexico for decades, after the U.S. and Mexico collaborated to capture all the wild wolves remaining in Mexico to initiate a captive breeding program to save the subspecies from extinction. Four males and a pregnant female were caught between and became the founders of the captive breeding program, subsequently augmented by two more lobos found in captivity. Mexico began a reintroduction program in The five pups discovered in June are the first wolves born as a result of that effort. SWEC Kicked Out of Farmers Market for Talking About Wolves In August, SWEC s Field Organizer Tricia Snyder was told to leave the Hidalgo County Farmers Market in Lordsburg (NM) by a Hidalgo County Commissioner for being too political. Tricia had set up a table to talk to visitors and pass out information about Mexican wolves, having obtained permission in advance from the Market coordinator. However, not long after arriving, she was confronted by a Cooperative Extension Agent who was upset over SWEC s pro-wolf stance and began berating Snyder, who was evicted by the County Commissioner shortly afterwards. SWEC representatives have tabled at Farmers markets and other events across New Mexico for many years, but this is the first time they have been evicted based on the content of their speech. We re not insensitive to rural politics, said Kevin Bixby, SWEC s executive director. We know wolves are not popular in every county, but you have to wonder why the elected officials of Hidalgo County are so afraid of a point of view they don t agree with, never mind why they don t respect the first amendment of the constitution. SWEC is weighing legal action against Hidalgo County and the individuals involved. Wolf Supporters Dominate Public Hearings Speakers in favor of greater protection for Mexican wolves outnumbered opponents by 2-1 at hearings held in August in Pinetop, AZ and Truth or Consequences, NM. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the hearings to receive public input on its proposed changes to Mexican wolf management. Wolf supporters rally before a public hearing in T or C (NM). Many wolf supporters echoed a common theme. They voiced support for FWS proposal to expand the area where captive-born wolves could be initially released into the wild and where they are allowed to roam, but opposed restrictions on their movement north of I-40, as well as relaxed rules on when wolves could be killed. Las Cruces wolf advocates were well represented at the T or C hearing. About one-third of those who spoke were from Las Cruces, including State Senator Bill Soules and County Commissioner Billy Garrett. Many of them rode up in Lobo Limo vans rented by the Southwest Environmental Center. SWEC canvasser Cody Jackson said what many wolf advocates undoubtedly felt, I cannot bear the idea of future generations asking why we didn t do more to protect these animals. It is our duty. Worth Watching: How Wolves Change Rivers You may have already seen this wonderful short video. If not, you can find it on YouTube. It succinctly explains how wolves can cause trophic cascades by virtue of their presence on the landscape, with often unexpected and positive results for other species and ecosystems even rivers. Check it out! (Note: the animal the British narrator calls deer is what we refer to as elk in the U.S.) page 3 the mesquite grill fall 2014

4 Otero Mesa Still at Risk SWEC board president part of innovative wildlife study Dr. Gary Roemer, professor at NMSU s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology, and president of the Southwest Environmental Center, is the co-author of a recently published study that uses electronic circuit theory and expert opinion to predict how easily mountain lions are able to move across New Mexico and Arizona. Rainbow over Alamo Mountain on Otero Mesa after recent rains. There are two active oil and gas wells on Otero Mesa, and the area remains open to additional leasing that could fragment what is currently one of the largest desert grasslands in North America and important habitat for many wildlife species. SWEC and other conservation groups are working to secure permanent protection for this special place from oil and gas development, mining, and other threats. Photo Kevin Bixby. SWEC board member and naturalist Ken Stinnett, seen here with his dog Buzzy, is conducting inventories on Otero Mesa to identify the location of wilderness lands and roads. The information he compiles will be provided to the BLM. Desert box turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola) on Otero Mesa. Gary Roemer with an island fox, one of many wildlife species he has studied. The study is called Models of Regional Habitat Quality and Connectivity for Pumas (Puma concolor) in the Southwestern United States. It predicts movements using a model in which the ability of cougars to traverse the landscape is analogous to the flow of electrons encountering varying levels of resistance. The resulting maps can help pinpoint locations of good habitat patches as well as areas where movements are restricted. Although focused on pumas, the study has important implications for many other wide ranging species. Biologists increasingly recognize connectivity as a key factor in the ability of populations and species to avoid extinction and adapt to climate change. Don t miss out Do we have your address? The best way to stay informed about SWEC events and issues is to sign up for our weekly enewsletter. You can do it at wildmesquite.org or call us at (575) fall 2014 the mesquite grill page 4

5 Bringing Back the Natives: an Update on SWEC s Rio Grande Restoration Projects Two-thirds of the native fish species in the lower Rio Grande of New Mexico have disappeared because of a century of river development for irrigation and flood control. One way to bring them back in the face of intermittent flows in the river is to establish a network of off-channel refuges which hold water year-round and are connected to the river, at least some of the time. That is the rationale behind our La Mancha Wetland Project, which is stalled while we wait for the State Engineer to approve a water rights application that was submitted May 17, Meanwhile, we are partnering with the International Boundary and Water Commission to launch a new project to benefit native fish that will take advantage of perennial flows in a 3-mile stretch of the river near Sunland Park (NM), at the mouth of the Montoya Agricultural Drain. The project could potentially benefit nine native fish species historically found in this reach that are identified as species of greatest conservation need by New Mexico. All of these species that were extirpated from this reach still exist elsewhere, and could potentially be reintroduced if suitable habitat were available. SWEC is currently seeking funding for this project. Harry Montgomery receives the keys to his new Prius from SWEC Executive Director Kevin Bixby (R), helped by George Vescovo (L), President of Vescovo Toyota, and Ken Stinnett, SWEC board member. Photo Robin Zielinski. Las Cruces Man Wins Prius in SWEC Raffle Congratulations to Harry Montgomery of Las Cruces. He is the lucky winner in the Southwest Environmental Center's annual raffle of a 2014 Toyota Prius. The ticket was drawn on April 27th at the Las Cruces Earth Day Fair at Young Park. A total of 495 tickets were sold. Harry is a retired computer engineer who worked many years for McDonnell Douglas. He and his wife Ann, a retired mathematician and consultant, have lived in Las Cruces since Even though they already own one Prius, they buy a raffle ticket each year because they want to support SWEC. Raft the Rio 2014 More than 60 boats floated down a full Rio Grande in June as part of SWEC s annual Raft the Rio, including Yellow Submarine -- winner of the Best Theme (open division). Photos: Pamela Porter (above), Lisa Mandlekern (left). page 5 the mesquite grill fall 2014

6 Writer Charles Bowden Dies Writer and activist Charles Bowden died in Las Cruces on August 30 of an unexplained illness. He was 69. Although best known for his writing about drugs and violence along the border, his works also explored (and skewered, in the vein of Edward Abbey) the relationship of humans to the environment in the Southwest, as in books like Killing the Hidden Waters and collaborations with New Mexico photographer Michael Berman that combined Bowden s unflinching prose with Berman s evocative black and white photographs. There will be a Down by the River..Rhapsody for Charles Bowden to celebrate his life on Sunday, September 28, at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park--one of Bowden s favorite places to walk and enjoy nature. The park will be open for the event from noon until five. Come early to walk park trails along the Rio Grande. Service to start at two o clock. For more information, contact SWEC to Launch Community Radio Station in Las Cruces SWEC has applied to the FCC for a license to start a low-power FM community radio station in Las Cruces. The station will have a range of approximately miles, depending on where the transmitter tower is located, and will air a variety of community affairs, news (environmental and otherwise) and music programming. Anyone interested in helping get this station off the ground and keeping it vibrant should contact SWEC Execuitve Director Named to Border Advisory Panel SWEC s Executive Director Kevin Bixby has been selected to a two-year term on the Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB), an independent federal advisory committee. Its mission is to advise the President and Congress of the United States on good neighbor practices along the U.S. border with Mexico. The Board does not carry out any specific border program. Rather its role is to step back as an expert, concerned observer and analyze the big picture when it comes to the problems the border region faces, as well as the opportunities at hand. Each year, the GNEB selects an issue and provides recommendations related to that topic in a report. This year, the topic is ecological restoration along the U.S. Mexico border. I am honored to serve on the GNEB, and delighted that the subject of the board s focus-- ecological restoration--is one of great interest to SWEC and me personally, said Bixby. I look forward to the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the board s work. Proposed Property Tax Increase Goes Down in Flames By a more than 5 to 1 margin, voters in Doña Ana County on April 8 rejected a proposal by an anti-public lands, anti-wildlife group to generate $350,000 for its operating budget by raising property taxes. A total of 2865 votes were cast against the mil levy proposed by the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District, while only 500 voters supported it. The turnout was unexpectedly large for a special election that few people had heard about only a few weeks beforehand. SWEC and other groups opposed the measure due to the extreme anti-environmental positions taken by the District s board, as well as the lack of specificity in how the funds would be spent. Volunteer Salute: RoseAnn (RA) Hernández RoseAnn is one of SWEC s amazing regular weekly volunteers. Volunteering has always been an important part of her life. After college she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in St. Kitts, WI. Returning to the Duke City she volunteered with MANA (Mexican American Women s National Association), an organization that worked to empower women of color. Arriving in Las Cruces in 1983, she quickly became involved in the community by joining the Las Cruces Symphony Guild, serving as an officer and co-chair of the Summer String Workshop for six years. She has also been a volunteer and board member of La Casa Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, adoña Ana Literacy Volunteers of America, and the Las Cruces Symphony Association. Her longest running volunteer stint (25 years) has been with the Mesilla Valley Film Society. She sits on the board and serves as treasurer and box office coordinator. Films are one of her passions, along with traveling and the environment. She sees at least one movie per week, but confesses to seeing as many 17 films in three and a half days at the Telluride Film Festival which she has attended for 15 years. Volunteering at SWEC for the past 18 months she has come to admire the staff and other volunteers who work to protect Mother Earth and all her flora and fauna. fall 2014 the mesquite grill page 6

7 Member Spotlight: Peter and Dael Goodman: Living consciously, purposefully by Pamela Porter When Peter and Dael Goodman moved to Las Cruces in 2011, the progressive community received a huge boost. While many recognize Peter s thoughtful commentary in a weekly Las Cruces Sun-News column, his wife, Dael, is equally committed to the environment and preserving its unique beauty. I think we ve both always have been strongly interested in nature, Peter observes. There s something about the desert, Dael adds. It s so naked, fragile and beautiful. They are both poets/writers and delight in photographing the regional plants and animals like an unusual digging snake, that Dael called her husband to video just as it popped out of the ground with a lizard in its mouth. Peter Goodman describes himself as a photographer, college dropout and New York cabbie when he took a 1969 road trip to the West that changed his life as he witnessed a dazzling New Mexico sunset -- and found his forever home. I thought it was beautiful and decided I d like to live here, but the only way I could do that was to go back to college, he recalls. Luckily for the Las Cruces community, the application to New Mexico State University was yes! $500 name(s) $250 $120 $60 $30 (basic membership) address Other Sustaining ($ per month) make checks payable to: Phone SWEC 275 N. main would you like to volunteer? Las cruces, nm Credit card info (circle): visa mastercard amex card number CVS number Exp. thank you! donations are fully tax deductible f2014 Dael and Peter Goodman enjoy their spot in the Chihuahuan Desert, east of Tortugas Mountain. Photo Robert Yee. $6, compared with UNM s $10 fee. Hey, I m no fool, Goodman laughs, saying he was delighted to learn that NMSU had a journalism and film program where you could put your hands on a movie camera right from the getgo. He subsequently worked as the El Paso Times Bureau Chief; a host on a news/discussion program for KRWG-TV; an Englishspeaking reporter for a Taiwan station; and he produced a film on minority sports in China for National Geographic. A practicing attorney in San Francisco, Peter met Dael in the Bay Area and introduced i want to help the southwest environmental center Protect wildlife and wild places! If you prefer, you can make a secure online donation at our website: wildmesquite.org her to Las Cruces and the surroundings she joyfully adopted. I loved it! she says. In fact, she proposed that the couple make the move. Dael created the first downtown recycling program, did marketing for Levi Strauss as well as business/relationship development for two international law firms while living in San Francisco. She was very conscious of her surroundings as she grew up in New Hampshire because her of her father s reverence for nature. That perspective is ingrained in Dael, who always considers the right thing to do in protecting the environment in her daily life. The couple have buckets positioned to capture water while it is heating for the shower or dishes to sprinkle on trees and plants on their property, and they even escort scorpions out of the house and rattlesnakes off of their property. We purposely leave native plants around our home because we know they are pollinators and part of the ecosystem, Dael points out. And I am routinely asked if I want to borrow a weed eater, Peter adds with a roll of his eyes. When asked why the couple are such ardent supporters of the Southwest Environmental Center, he replies, You may as well ask why I breathe! Nodding in agreement, Dael observes, I feel like SWEC represents good work by good people supporting our local nonhuman community. They agree that water is the biggest environmental and political challenge this area faces. It affects everything, and everything is affected by it: growth and development, agriculture, the health of our rivers, land, air, soil, plants, animals, she says. Peter agrees. Water implicates the larger issue of what s our role in a relatively fragile and interconnected world, he says. Read more and join the discussion on his blog, soledadcanyon.blogspot.com. Our Mission Established in 1991, the Southwest Enviromental Center works to protect and restore native wildlife and their habitats in the Southwestern borderlands. Not a member? Please join us today! page 7 the mesquite grill fall 2014

8 SWEC Gala to Benefit Wildlife and Wild Places The Southwest Environmental Center will hold its annual gala fundraiser, A Wild Night for Wildlife, on Saturday, September 27, 6-10 pm. The event will take place on Main Street (Las Cruces) under the stars, and will feature great food prepared by favorite local restaurants, including Savoy de Mesilla, The Mix Pacific Rim, Andele, De La Vegas, Hotel Encanto, Let Them Eat Cake, and Milagro Coffee y Espresso. Two nights lodging at the beautiful Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque is one of 100+ items in the silent auction. Students in the culinary arts program at Alma d Arte High School will prepare and serve gourmet appetizers. Quality beverages will be provided by High Desert Brewery and St. Clair Winery. Attendees can eat, drink and dance while enjoying live music provided by Mad Moe Zell, jazz guitarist Jamie O Hara, and Felix y Los Gatos from Albuquerque. Felix y Los Gatos from Albuquerque is regarded as one of New Mexico s best dance bands. Guests will also have the chance to pick up some incredible bargains among the many items in a silent auction, including stays at a 5-star Mexican beach resort, gourmet meals, artwork, jewelry, luxury getaways, and much more. A sneak preview of what s in the auction can be seen at wildmesquite.org. Guests can also buy a limited edition, signed event poster designed by Joe Barela at Seribellum Press. Tickets are $50 in advance ($60 at door) of which $25 is tax-deductible. Tickets can be purchased at SWEC, M-F, 9 am to 6 pm, or online at wildmesquite.org. They will also be available at the door. All proceeds will benefit SWEC s efforts to protect the unique wildlife and wild places of the Southwestern borderlands. Sponsors of A Wild Night include Vescovo Toyota of Las Cruces, El Paso Electric, Ardovino s Desert Crossing, Classic New Mexico Homes, Donahue Land Surveys, Enchanted Occasions Event Rentals, Everett and Boetticher PC, Grady Oxford & Steinborn TCN Commercial Real Estate, Jornada Veterinary Clinic, Las Cruces Bulletin, Lisa Willman CPA, Los Puentes Farms, Melissa Reeves PC-Attorney at Law, Positive Energy Solar, Seribellum Press, Sleep Lab of Las Cruces, Southwest Music and Entertainment News, and Sun-Tech Services. For more information, call (575) Let Them Eat Cake will be one of three caterers providing gourmet desserts at the SWEC gala. southwest environmental c e n t e r 275 North Main Las Cruces, NM non-profit org. u.s. postage paid permit no las cruces, nm return service requested fall 2014 the mesquite grill page 8

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