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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Forum focusing on the history and future of the Mexican gray wolf to be held Feb. 7-8

"El Lobo," a two-day public forum at which historians, wolf experts, ranchers and environmentalists will discuss the history and future of the Mexican gray wolf, will open at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, with a keynote session at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

note session will feature Susan Flader, historian, biographer and author of "Thinking Like a Mountain." The session also will feature David Mech, wolf biologist and author of "The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species," and Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association.

A day-long symposium beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, in the Corbett Center Auditorium on the New Mexico State University campus will include talks and a roundtable discussion with leading environmental historians and activists, biologists, policy-makers and ranchers on both sides of the issue, and a dinner with featured speaker Hank Fischer, special products coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.

The forum is free and open to the public, but there is a charge for the dinner. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required by Friday, Jan. 24. For registration information, contact Vanessa Stewart at wolfconf@nmsu.edu or visit the conference Web site at http://www.nmsu.edu/~histdept/wolf.html.

In response to demands from ranchers and sport hunters, an intensive federal anti-predator campaign largely exterminated the Mexican wolf from the Southwest between the 1890s and the mid-1920s. In 1976, not long after the region's last known wolves were wiped out, the federal government listed the Mexican wolf as an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Captive-bred Mexican wolves were released into Arizona's Apache National Forest and New Mexico's Gila National Forest in 1998, after long-time efforts of local and national environmental organizations spurred the reintroduction program. This program has created controversy among ranchers and environmentalists from widely different perspectives.

"Many ranchers continue to feel economically threatened by the reintroduction of wolves. At the same time, some environmentalists supporting wolf reintroduction criticize the management of wolves, which includes the relocation and sometimes death of wolves found hanging around ranches," said Marsha Weisiger, environmental historian and assistant professor of history at New Mexico State.

"The 'El Lobo' forum promises to offer a lively discussion of the issues surrounding both the eradication and the reintroduction of Mexican wolves in the Southwest, one that I hope will move the dialogue in a constructive direction," she said. "The historical prospective provides a special opportunity to see many of these issues in a new light."

The forum will also address the history of wolf eradication to favor deer and elk hunters and ranchers, the historical role of large predators in the Southwestern ecosystem and the current battle over wolf reintroduction.

In addition to the keynote and dinner speakers, participants include Thomas Dunlap, author of "Saving America's Wildlife;" Dan Flores, author of "Horizontal Yellow;" Louis Warren, author of "The Hunter's Game;" and historian Diana Hadley. Craig Miller of Tucson, Ariz., from the Defenders of Wildlife, Michael Robinson of Silver City, N.M., from the Center for Biological Diversity, Kevin Bixby of Las Cruces, director of the Southwest Environmental Center and Brian Kelly of the Fish and Wildlife Service will participate.

Ranchers Darcy Ely and Jan and Will Holder of Tucson, Ariz., Hugh McKeen of Glenwood, N.M., Laura Schneberger of Winston, N.M., and Jim Winder of Hatch, N.M., and ecologists Michael Phillips and David E. Brown are also participants as well as a number of other policy-makers, scientists and representatives from the Apache reservations.

"El Lobo" is the first Leopold Forum on environmental history and policy in the Southwest borderlands. The Leopold Forum is named in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold, whose career began in New Mexico.

The Department of History at New Mexico State organized this forum, which is co-sponsored by the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and the university's College of Agriculture. The forum is funded by grants from the Environmental Leadership Program, the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities, the Thaw Charitable Trust, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and the Southwest and Border Cultures Institute.

Sarah Wheeler