Learn about the wolf-recovery program — unless the federal government shuts down

Update: Now that Congress has achieved a budget fix, this event is ON. Come learn about the modern-day Ernest Thompson Setons among us.

How might a federal government shutdown affect you? Here’s one way: Our long-planned Sunday lecture on “Return of the Lobo: The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program,” in the History Museum Auditorium will be canceled. The reason? Our speaker, Maggie Dwire, assistant Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, won’t be able to work.

The Sleeping Wolf, oil on canvas on plywood, 1891. Academy for the Love of Learning: Photo credit: James Hart.

The Sleeping Wolf, oil on canvas on plywood, 1891. Academy for the Love of Learning: Photo credit: James Hart.

Barring a shutdown, come to the History Museum for Dwire’s 2 pm lecture, part of a series supporting our exhibition Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton. It’s free with admission, and Sundays are free to NM residents. Some background:

The presence of wolves in the West and how humans relate to them were questions that Ernest Thompson Seton asked at the turn of the last century. They continue to be questions that we are still trying to answer today.

Wild at Heart explores Seton’s transformation from a hired wolf-killer to one of America’s leading conservationists. The exhibit — made possible with the support of the Academy for the Love of Learning, home of the Seton Legacy Project — closes May 8, 2011. Within the exhibit area, you’ll hear the mournful call of the wolf, a sound that is returning today to parts of New Mexico.

From the Fish and Wildlife Service’s web site:

Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), can once again be heard in the mountains of the southwestern United States. The Mexican wolf, like many species protected by the Endangered Species Act, is getting a second chance to play its role in nature through an ambitious recovery program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Mexican wolf once roamed throughout vast portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. But, as human settlement intensified across the Southwest in the early 1900s, wolves increasingly came into conflict with livestock operations and other human activities. Private, state, and federal extermination campaigns were raged against the wolf until, by the 1970s, the Mexican wolf had been all but eliminated from the United States and Mexico.

In 1976, however, a new era dawned for the Mexican wolf. The Mexican wolf, a subspecies of gray wolf, was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. … It was now incumbent upon the Service, one of two federal agencies responsible for administration of the Endangered Species Act, to lead an effort to bring the Mexican wolf back from the brink of extinction in the United States. The question was, “How?”

Between 1977 and 1982, recovery of the Mexican wolf was jump-started with a flurry of activity. First, the United States and Mexico agreed to establish a bi-national captive breeding program with several wolves trapped in Mexico between 1977 and 1980. …

On March 29, 1998, captive-reared Mexican wolves were released to the wild for the first time in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (6,800 square miles of territory stretching across east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico, including the Apache National Forest and Gila National Forest). Here, 11 vanguards of the rarest and most unique subspecies of gray wolf in the United States began a historic journey – the journey of recovery.

Reintroduction of a top predator such as the Mexican wolf is highly complex and often controversial. It is important to understand the role Mexican wolves are playing on the landscape, including all of the potential biological, social and economic impacts – be they good, bad, or indifferent….