Holding out Hope for the Arizona Game and Fish Commission

When members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s recommendation board met last week, they interviewed four candidates for the commission’s open seat. All four were white males and most had strong ties to extractive industries on public lands, including mining and livestock. Not one had a wildlife conservation biology background and none reflected Arizona’s diverse cultures and communities that too have a stake in the state’s wildlife management. The commission chose to advance two of the four for consideration by the governor.

The candidates were also all human, selected from a field that, for the first time ever, had a well-qualified, pro-hunting, fifth-generation Arizona native canine: Esperanza del Arroyo Pantera, a.k.a. Mexican Wolf #AF1339, Hope of the Panther Creek Pack. Esperanza was endorsed by a slew of conservation organizations (including Western Watersheds Project, the one I represent) that recognized that the current commission needs pro-wolf voices.

Despite their propaganda war to the contrary, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has severely curtailed wolf recovery in Arizona through a series of bad policies: enforcing the Interstate 40 northern boundary despite suitable habitat in the Grand Canyon region, restricting releases of captive wolves to only cross-fostered pups, and advocating for a population cap well-below the scientific recommendation for long-term viability of the species. Though some in the Game and Fish Department work hard to keep wolves in the wild, some are clearly there to mollify ranchers and certain hunters and to stir up opposition to the federal control of the program as is mandated by the Endangered Species Act. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission even advocates for removing Endangered Species Act protection from the Mexican wolf, despite its current status as the most imperiled mammal in North America.

Now, more than ever, Arizona needs wildlife managers who understand the importance of predators in maintaining the balance of nature. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is counting on Arizona’s cooperation in its draft recovery plan (expected to be finalized by the end of this month), and the commission is going to have to get on board with allowing releases of genetically-diverse adult wolves from captivity if they are going to save this species. It’s a risky bet given Arizona’s record so far. Meanwhile, Esperanza and her pack continue to bring diversity to our wild places and healthier landscapes to Arizona. Too bad our Commission does not recognize – or reflect – that imperative.






  1. Isabel Cohen Avatar

    I am saddened and disgusted by these macho guys that love killing any and everything! We MUST save what wildlife is left, including our beloved wolves!!!

  2. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “for the first time ever, had a well-qualified, pro-hunting, fifth-generation Arizona native.”

    I love it. Fantastic!

  3. Maska Avatar

    Esperanza isn’t going away. She and her human allies will stick around to hold the AZGFC and the department’s feet to the fire when it’s time to approve much-needed releases next spring and summer.

    Meanwhile, some of her New Mexico relatives need to gear up to pressure a new governor in New Mexico, to be inaugurated in January 2019, to appoint some commissioners who aren’t beholden solely to big game hunters and extractive industries. We’ll be ready to help make the case.

  4. Helen McGinnis Avatar

    There is also an ongoing campaign to ban hunting and trapping of wild felids in Arizona by putting the issue on the ballot in 2018. The AZ Game & Fish Commission claims they are using the best science when they allow hound hunting of mountain lions. https://azforwildlife.com/

  5. Jerry Black Avatar

    Arizonans for Wildlife…..their proposed initiative to protect big cats

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