Leo Banks' "Howling Mad" is a misinformed piece of urban fiction, and The Weekly's editors have clearly been out in the sun too long if they're handing over an issue as complicated as wolf recovery to a western romance novelist. Instead of contributing to the discussion surrounding wolf reintroduction with a problem-solving eye, Banks and The Weekly chose a scattershot blast of anecdotal information, one-sided assumptions and inflammatory rhetoric, illustrated with silly photos of fanged wolves. This article would belong in the land of fairy tales, but even there, it's a few elves and a princess shy of the Brothers Grimm.
Defenders of Wildlife has been involved with wolf reintroduction from the beginning. We've also been involved to varying degrees in each of the events sensationalized by Banks, yet not once were we contacted about the issue or the fables he spun. Instead of asking us directly, Banks looks for sloppy shortcuts to critique our efforts and simply steals an inaccurate quote from another dated newspaper article repeating some drivel about death threats. It seems Banks really wanted a controversial story, but didn't want to work all that hard at reporting to track one down.
Second, Banks won't mention the collaborative successes of wolf reintroduction efforts, like in Arizona where the White Mountain Apaches are embracing the wolf's return as a source of spiritual renewal and potential draw for tourists, or where Southwest ranchers are working with conservationists to not only recover wolves, but also to restore watersheds, improve grasslands and increase profits at the same time.
When it comes to ranchers, Banks is out of touch with the very people he is writing about. Several weeks back, Eagle Creek had a meeting to explore a community association to build economic security and viability in the area for the benefit of humans and wildlife.
When it comes to the public, Banks is even further out of touch. Surveys consistently show that most rural citizens in the very communities where wolf recovery is occurring support the restoration effort.
Banks' conclusion that wolves are the reason ranchers are going out of business is like citing a terminal cancer patient's cause of death as hemorrhoids; it's an illogical diagnosis from the land of demented fairy tales. Livestock producers in America are suffering real hardship--but not from wolves. The predators that are eating ranchers out of house and home are corporate-controlled meat monopolies that fix and control prices, vertically integrate and essentially make individual producers indentured slaves. Low and falling prices coupled with periodic drought--the norm in the Southwest--reduce profits even further.
There are a number of ways that cattlemen are benefiting from working with conservationists and other public land stakeholders. Defenders has two programs to lessen the economic burden. One is a compensation program that we instituted in 1987 to pay fair market value for wolf-caused livestock losses. In total, Defenders has paid more than $296,000 to more than 253 ranchers in the Southwest, Yellowstone and Central Idaho. The second program is a proactive initiative to help ranchers who have ideas on how to avoid predator-livestock conflicts and need some cash to make it happen.
The Tucson Weekly should demand a journalistic standard of their reporters that, at a minimum, requires contacting key players to get at least a reasonable perspective on a feature story as important and complex as wolf recovery.
Southwest director, Defenders of Wildlife
Leo Banks, who's won numerous awards for his journalism, says he indeed tried to reach Mr. Miller, leaving him a message. He did not receive a return call.
Just last month I was a member of a "Women and Wolves" camping trip in the Apache-Sitgreaves. We camped at Wolf Central, and it was an awesome experience. We not only heard howling, we found tracks, first of a large male, then days later of an Alpha female and pups.
What we had not dared to dream of was actually seeing any wolves. One afternoon, four of them trotted up a rise about 175 yards behind our camp. They were not interested in us at all.
How anyone can think wolves do not belong in that area is insane. The wolves completed the picture. They are nature's answer for balance. I personally have listened to enough "Little Red Riding Hood" stories, from the same few people. These anecdotes are greatly exaggerated, if not complete fiction. Should the Wolf Recovery go down because of ranchers, there are thousands of us who will work the rest of our lives to end grazing on public lands, especially forests and mountain areas.
--Sharon A. Morgan, Silver City, N.M.
Congratulations, Leo Banks, for creating such a thrilling and fanciful tale that readers will never again have to turn to Little Red Riding Hood for their daily dose of excitement. Never mind the bias and implausibility of the ranchers' anecdotes, which can never be verified. What the heck: This type of sensationalism sells newspapers! Thanks to you, the Big Bad Wolf of fiction reigns once again.
The Mexican Gray wolf is the most imperiled mammal in North America. The small number of Mexican Grays left alive, and even smaller number of these actually in the wild, could simply not have "gobbled (up)" the ridiculous amount of livestock claimed. What about cougars and black bears? What about substandard, inappropriate ranching practices that ensure livestock are at risk in the woods and on public lands? What about opinion polls that clearly show the majority of people, even those in wolf country, are supportive of wolf reintroduction? What about pet owners' responsibilities in keeping their animals safe from harm? What about a dose of reality, Mr. Banks, and some common sense and fairness?
Executive director, Kerwood Wolf Education Centre Inc., Ontario, Canada
I am outraged that you choose to print a story that only tells one, extremely negative and slanted side of the Mexican wolf recovery story. For those of us who DO live in "the country," many of us have learned to live WITH the wildlife and not try to shape their natural and instinctual predatory behavior.
As a journalist myself, I know that every GOOD story shows both sides when dealing with an editorial-type situation. As a journalist, one's job is to report a story; no opinions needed. To me, Leo Banks should not have been published by a reputable newspaper. His story is biased against the wolves and pro-rancher.
Please remember that wolves were in the Southwest long before "man" chose to live in this arid area. I think "man" is the interloper here since we need much more water than this area can afford to give to make it habitable! I also feel the entire reintroduction program has been geared to meet ranchers' objections. Unlike other endangered wildlife (including wolves in other states), our lobos are not allowed to set up homes outside their recovery area and are removed if they do so, even if they're on other national forests or BLM public lands. Also, unlike in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, ranchers are allowed to leave their dead livestock killed by falls, disease, lightning, pregnancy problems etc. where wolves find them, thus allowing the wolves to become habituated to stock.
In order to BALANCE this story, the Tucson Weekly needs to run an article of equal length and on the same page, if possible, with interviews of the many people in rural southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico whose lives have been enhanced by the presence of wolves.
--Sue M. Sefscik, Las Cruces, N.M.
Anyone reading your recent article on Mexican wolves and eastern Arizona ranchers would assume that nearly every rural person is terrified of wolves and unalterably opposed to their presence in the wild. It's too bad Leo W. Banks didn't dig a little deeper into the story. Had he done so, he might have heard about the Wolf Tourism Workshop held in Alpine on April 26, sponsored by the Southwest Environmental Center of Las Cruces, N.M.
About 40 people, including a number of local guides, outfitters and guest ranch operators, participated in the workshop, learning first-hand from an experienced Yellowstone outfitter how they could profit from the presence of wolves and bring much-needed tourist dollars into their communities. While not everyone at the workshop was favorable to the idea, several of the participants expressed an intention to begin planning immediately to add wolf tourism to their current operations.
Apparently repeating old, exaggerated tales of slavering wolves makes better copy than factual accounts of attempts at cooperation between ranchers, outfitters and environmental groups. It does not, however, present a balanced and accurate portrayal of the situation in rural eastern Arizona.
--Jean C. Ossorio, Los Cruces, N.M.
The "Howling Mad" article saddened me. It will be difficult for me to pick up The Weekly for any content other than the movie listings. Describing a current problem without referring to history is not informative; in fact, it is irresponsible. At the core of this issue is the fact that ranchers and their predecessors are exploiting a fragile ecosystem that was set aside as wilderness by our thoughtful leaders before us. If Leo Banks cannot recognize the trend of habitat loss and human encroachment, I suggest he be placed in your advertising department.
What is the point of showing a wolf with its teeth exposed? I would suggest that if a person's heart is in raising cattle for food, they should seriously consider purchasing land where the buffalo once roamed, which is where water was and is plenty.
--Paul Bagley, Tucson
Leo W. Banks needs to rid himself of his sentimentalism toward the ranchers who are bemoaning their paradise lost. While they would like us to feel sorry for the calf eaten by wolves, hearing the calf's "anguished screams," the fact is that same calf would have been slaughtered in an equally heinous way if the wolf hadn't eaten it first.
I would dare anyone who thinks a wolf's killing of a calf is worse than the fate the calf would have endured at the hands of these ranchers to take a ride in the truck to the slaughter house--jammed in with all the other cattle, hearing the killing, smelling it in the air, to be prodded with electric probes to death, knowing that an estimated 1 in 100 cows do not get enough of an electric jolt to be killed or even completely stunned before being butchered.
What I have "learned from a textbook" is that meat and dairy contribute to heart disease and diabetes to such an extent that when patients remove these foods from their diet, the diseases can actually be reversed.
I may be a "city environmentalist," but what other kind of environmentalist should I be? When moving to Arizona, I chose to live in the city because I have a deep appreciation for nature. I did not want to contribute to the urban sprawl that is destroying much of the desert that I love.
I do have compassion for the ranchers. Change is difficult. But if all the ranchers have to turn to soybean farming or tourism, I believe the world would be a better place for the cows, wolves and humans.
I never thought I'd send a "good job" letter to a socialist pinko greenie rag like yours, but here it is. My kudos are reserved exclusively for Leo Banks. His "Howling Mad" feature was far more balanced than anything the Red Star would be expected to crank out on such a controversial subject. I guess maybe your "social justice" buttons were pushed, but if that is what it takes to finally tell the truth about the Mexican wolf introduction disaster, fine with me.
The Hydra Project, Whitefish, Mont.
So, after a 100 years of trashing public lands and nursing at the public tit, eastern Arizona ranchers are whining that the Mexican Wolf reintroduction is ruining their lives.
Well, I've got one thing to say to these folks, and I hope Leo Banks is listening, because it's the real point of his story (the one that he missed): If it took a bunch of wolves to ruin your lives, you ain't livin' right.
--Randy Serraglio, Tucson