The issue of Mexican Gray Wolves inhabiting areas of active cattle management has been one area of concern throughout history, bipartisan legislation recently introduced seeks to provide a remedy to the situation. For the first time, legislation might finally compensate ranchers for livestock losses at 100 percent of market value.

The remedy comes in the form of H.R.2695, the Wolf and Livestock Fairness (WOLF) Act introduced by Representatives Greg Stanton (D) and David Schweikert (R) of Arizona, Gabe Vasquez (D) of New Mexico, and August Pfluger(R) of Texas. The Act aims to provide full reimbursement to ranchers for livestock harmed by endangered Mexican Gray Wolves, a species that has caused conflicts with livestock in the Southwestern United States.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) categorized the Mexican Gray Wolf as a nonessential experimental population. The wolves were originally reintroduced into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, a 4.4-million-acre area within the Apache and Gila National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico. This designation allows for greater management flexibility to address wolf conflict situations such as livestock depredations and nuisance behavior.

When the program began in 1998, there were only eleven Mexican Gray Wolves in the wild; the population has since dramatically grown. The end-of-year census for 2020 was a minimum of 186 Mexican wolves in the wild (72 in Arizona and 114 in New Mexico). This was a 14 percent increase in the population from the 2019 end-of-year census. At the end of 2019, a minimum of 163 wolves were documented, which was a 24 percent increase from 2018. The most recent update from this year indicates that the population has increased to 241 wolves, which is double the population from five years ago. The reintroduction of this species on private and public lands, coupled with the sizeable growth of the population, has presented a financial burden on Arizona’s livestock producers.

The current predator support programs in place reimburse ranchers and producers at only 75 percent of the market value of affected livestock, which results in inadequate reimbursement for the cost of raising livestock in areas where wolves are present, and it lacks sustainable, long-term incentives for livestock producers to tolerate wolf presence and activity in their shared landscapes.

The WOLF Act, however, proposes to reimburse ranchers and producers at 100 percent of market value for livestock harmed by Mexican Gray Wolves. Additionally, it establishes an emergency relief program to support livestock producers whose herds have been adversely affected by these wolves. The Arizona Farm Bureau sees this as a positive step towards addressing the losses suffered by ranching families within the Mexican wolf experimental range.

Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse, expressed support for the WOLF Act, stating "The ranching families living within the Mexican wolf experimental range are suffering severe losses as the population of the Mexican wolf steadily increases and applies more pressure to those cattle operations. For two decades these families have been going above and beyond to protect their animals from predation while managing the watershed and incurring escalating costs. It's just simply not fair for these families to bear the entire burden for the Mexican wolf program.” She continued, “Not only does this bill support a sustainable future for Arizona ranchers, but it will have a positive impact on the program itself and the local communities."

The Arizona Farm Bureau supports the WOLF Act introduced by Representatives Stanton, Schweikert, Vasquez, and Pfluger, as it aims to provide full reimbursement to ranchers for livestock harmed by Mexican Gray Wolves at 100 percent of market value. We believe that this bill will not only support the livelihoods of hardworking ranchers but also contribute to the recovery of endangered wildlife. The current predator support programs are inadequate, and the WOLF Act is viewed as a positive step toward addressing the challenges faced by ranchers from Mexican Gray Wolves in Arizona