State lawmakers voted today to let ranchers shoot the Mexican gray wolves being reintroduced to the Southwest despite their listing under federal law as endangered.
On a 16-12 vote the Senate approved legislation that allows a livestock operator or agent to kill a wolf on public lands if it in self defense or the defense of others. The only requirement under HB 2699 is that the act must be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In separate action the House gave final approval to SB 1211. Its permission to kill wolves on public lands is broader, extending that to any wolf engaged in killing, wounding or biting livestock. And it also allows dogs which guard livestock to kill wolves.
The 37-22 vote came over the objections of Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson.
"We nearly destroyed the buffalo years ago," she told colleagues, evoking the image of herds of animals shot and left to rot on the Great Plains. "We're about to do this to the Mexican wolves. We don't have to keep repeated the tragic mistakes of history."
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And Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Phoenix, said there are "more humane" alternatives to having ranchers kill the wolves. He said that New Mexico, for example, has set up a fund to reimburse ranchers for lost livestock.
That actually is part of HB 2699, though there are no actual funds to do that. Instead, the legislation tells the attorney general to seek funds from the federal government to pay the ranchers for their losses. But it also says that if the federal government doesn't come up with the money, the Legislature will consider a measure to require that Mexican wolves be restricted to federally controlled lands and removed from state and private lands.
Much of the debate concerns whether wolves, which everyone admits were here until at least 1930, should be reintroduced to Arizona.
Read more of this story in Thursday's Star.