PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer will not give ranchers and their employees permission to kill endangered Mexican gray wolves on federal lands.
The measure vetoed Tuesday was crafted by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford. She has been a vocal foe of the program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce the wolves into sections of Arizona and New Mexico, saying they endanger not only cattle but also pets and children.
SB 1211 would have spelled out that ranchers could “take” — legalese for kill — a wolf that was killing, wounding or biting livestock. It also would have legalized the killing of a wolf by a guard dog that is protecting livestock.
The measure would also have permitted killing a wolf in self-defense or defense of others. In that case, though, the act would have to be reported within 24 hours to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Brewer, in her veto message, said she is a strong supporter of states’ rights. But she said SB 1211 was both unnecessary and conflicts with federal law.
She said the Arizona Game and Fish Department already is working with federal agencies to deal with how wolf reintroduction will affect the state. By contrast, Brewer said SB 1211 would have given that duty to the state Agriculture Department, the agency responsible for dealing with ranchers and grazing.
Beyond that, Brewer said the legislation sought to put the Mexican wolf in the same legal category as mountain lions and bears. But she said that is in conflict with federal law, which does allow killing those two species in certain circumstances, but not the wolves.
“A state simply does not have the power to allow a ‘take’ on federal lands,” the governor wrote.
Brewer took no action Tuesday on HB 2699, a related measure on her desk. It would allow a livestock operator or agent to kill a wolf on public lands in self-defense or the defense of others, with the only requirement that it be reported to the USDA.
But that measure also contains language that Brewer could find in conflict with federal law.
It directs the Attorney General’s Office to seek funds from the federal government to pay ranchers for their losses. But it also says that if the federal government doesn’t come up with the cash, the Legislature will consider a measure to require that Mexican wolves be restricted to federally controlled lands and removed from state and private lands.