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Updated Sep 28, 2013 - 11:07 am

NM commission votes to take part in gray wolf planning

SANTA FE, N.M. -- The state Game Commission has decided its wants New Mexico to have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions about the federal government's efforts to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to the American Southwest.

The commission voted this week to direct the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to sign to a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the federal agency drafts an environmental impact statement for the troubled wolf program.

The vote comes two years after the Game and Fish Department officially pulled out of the program.

Now, state Game and Fish Director Jim Lane said the department wants to help in the interpretation of scientific data and influence any decisions that will ultimately affect New Mexicans and the state's wildlife resources.

Lane contends the federal agency doesn't have a viable recovery plan for the wolves.

``Their approach puts stakeholders in a predicament of deciding to participate in a process that lacks defined objectives for wolf recovery, or risk sitting on the sidelines and watching the process unfold without the opportunity to provide input,'' Lane said in a statement issued Friday.

The Game Commission said it supports the department's participation in development of the environmental impact statement, but its vote isn't an endorsement of the wolf program.

State game officials said New Mexico ranchers continue to have reservations about the program due to the economic effects of losing cattle to wolves.

Efforts to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona began in 1998, with a goal of having at least 100 wolves in the wild within a decade. The most recent survey done at the beginning of 2013 put the wild population at about 75.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled a public meeting Oct. 4 in Albuquerque to discuss proposed changes to the Mexican wolves' status.

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