Protecting The Gila Wolves: Fence Repair

The Gila Wilderness is a very special place to me. It is where I experienced my first taste of true backcountry wilderness. Not only is the Gila a truly beautiful wilderness, but I fell in love with the notion that the Gila was America’s first designated wilderness area, the birthplace of wilderness conservation. This remote wilderness is an incredible natural treasure, home to the last undamned river in the state of New Mexico, yet there are still large portions of the Gila that remain unprotected. However, encouraging efforts are being made to make the Gila a priority in conservation.

The Gila Wilderness is akin to Yellowstone in that its vast ecoregions make up incredible habitat and species diversity. Environmentalists of New Mexico and beyond are working hard to maintain that diversity as an integral part of a greater ecoregion. At the top of the list of environmental concerns for the Gila is the recovery of Mexican wolves. Wolf recovery is essential to restoring and maintaining a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Current Mexican gray wolf recovery areas include the Gila Wilderness of the Gila National Forest as well as the neighboring Blue Range Wilderness of the Apache National Forest – compromising 4.4 million acres of wild land. That’s twice as large as Yellowstone! Alpine forest, plentiful water and small wolf prey make these wilderness areas prime habitat for Mexican wolves.

Cattle grazing poses the greatest threat to these wild lands and conservation efforts; and the fight for ecological balance between humans and wolf recovery continues for the area. Last weekend, I joined WildEarth Guardians and Defenders of Wildlife on a volunteer project in the Gila which focused on the repair and stabilization of fences along the Deep Creek allotment where livestock grazing is no longer permitted. These are small efforts with big pay-offs. Maintenance of the fence would prevent cattle from roaming into prime wolf territory. In the effort to reduce cattle-wolf encounters, conflicts between ranchers and environmentalists are also lessened.

Today, there are around 109 Mexican gray wolves in the wild. They remain one of the rarest wolf sub-species in the world. Although wolf recovery remains one of the most complex and controversial conservation topics, it is achievable. For the wonderful Gila Wilderness to achieve long-term ecological balance wolf restoration must be achieved, which means more wolves need to be released as well as be protected.

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