by Rick LoBello
Vice Chair, Executive Committee
Last month the El Paso Sierra Club Group sent Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 6 boxes containing 10,372 letters plus a list of 4,628 names of people asking Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin, Texas to support a plan to return wolves to the wilds of Texas. We are still waiting for a reply.
Most of our members know about our new movement to return the gray wolf to wilderness areas and protected areas of West Texas. In our letter to Smith El Paso Sierra Club Group Chair Laurence Gibson, a former UTEP music professor and the former El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s longtime concertmaster, stated “We believe that it is critical to the future of our ecosystem and the citizens of our state to preserve and protect all parts of the ecosystem.” Gibson went on to urge Smith and Texas Parks and Wildlife to launch an effort to bring back the wolf to the wilds of Texas and to develop and implement a scientifically reviewed plan of action. Earlier this summer the Texas Parks and ‘Wildlife Foundation launched a We Will Not Be Tamed campaign. Bringing the wolf back to Texas will clearly demonstrate TPWD’s commitment to this important conservation initiative encouraging all Texans to get involved in conserving the wild things and wild places of our state. Ecological and economic benefits of this proposal are as follows:
1. The return of wolves to the Texas wild will help to maintain the current growth of our state’s dynamic travel and tourism industry, and its important contributions to the state economy. Texas is a premier destination for domestic and international travelers, where travel totaled an estimated $70.5 billion in 2014 and supported 630,000 jobs across the state. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.
2. Wolves provided important ecological services in helping to control prey species as well as ensuring biodiversity within Texas and the surrounding region.
3. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.
4. Wolves need wilderness areas to survive and making sure we have wolves in Texas will help to ensure that we have wilderness. The wilderness that remains in Texas is part of our “great Texas backyard.” Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced society. It provides us with places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste and crowds that too often confine us. It is a place for us to enjoy with friends and families – strengthening our relationships and building lasting memories.
5. Wolves will help to maintain the ecological integrity of one of the greatest gifts Texas has given the nation – Big Bend National Park. Unlike other large national parks that were established from lands already owned by the federal government, Big Bend was privately owned by 100s of land owners before it became a national park. Texans came together during the 1930s and 40s and raised the money to buy the land that was then deeded to the federal government to become the State’s first national park and one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service.
6. The preservation of our natural heritage in Texas is a sacred trust mandated by federal and state law. Texans from all walks of life support efforts to conserve our natural heritage, including endangered species that historically lived in the state.
7. Restoring wolves to Texas will help to bring back the balance of the ecosystem.
8. By chasing and hunting their prey wolves help to re-vegetate habitats impacted by herbivores. These restored plant habitats will benefit other species like birds.
9. There is growing evidence that some predators, such as wolves, may benefit public health by killing sick wildlife that spread infectious diseases from wild animals to humans and domestic livestock.
10. As dominant predators, wolves will help to keep other predators in check like coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.