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Society for Conservation Biology Asks the US Fish and Wildlife Service to Increase Efforts to Recover the Mexican Wolf

Letter Sent to the Secretary of Interior


From the Society for Conservation Biology: h

Today the Society for Conservation Biology sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior recommending the following six steps toward recovery for the highly endangered Mexican wolf in the American Southwest.

We ask the FWS to implement the following actions:

1. Implement recommendations of the three-year review report (Paquet et al. 2001). The report was commissioned by the FWS from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and completed in June 2001. It recommended 1) revising the 1982 recovery plan,  2) allowing wolves that are not management problems to establish territories outside the BRWRA, 3) allowing captive wolf releases into the Gila National Forest (New Mexico), and 4) requiring livestock operators on public land to improve carcass management. The report’s recommendations, although almost a decade old, remain highly relevant to developing an effective recovery strategy for the subspecies, and illustrate how much time has passed without necessary corrective steps being taken.

2. Expedite development of a new recovery plan. We concur with Paquet et al. (2001)’s recommendation that it is imperative that a scientifically credible recovery planning process be reinitiated immediately.

3. Complete the process to amend the Reintroduction Project Rule. This process was begun in 2007. At least 12,000 people participated in a 2007 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping process for proposed rule changes, but FWS has not moved forward with the process. FWS has stated that the delay related to lack of funding for a related socio-economic study, but an existing socio-economic study meets legal requirements. To ensure compatibility of both science and policy, the rule revision process should be fully coordinated with the development of a new recovery plan.
4. Release the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) to expedite direct releases of wolves into New Mexico. Genetic problems have become evident in the Mexican wolf population, related to both inbreeding and prolonged captivity (Fredrickson et al. 2007, Frankham 2008, Hedrick and Fredrickson 2010).  This suggests that the FWS needs to release genetically selected animals from the captive breeding facilities into available habitat in New Mexico. An EA that would expedite such releases has been drafted. The FWS should immediately release the draft EA for public review, comments, and final action.

5. Engage the Forest Service, and other relevant agencies, in recovery activities, as required by Section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act, which requires all Federal agencies to “utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of this Act by carrying out programs for the conservation of endangered species”, “in consultation with and with the assistance of, the Secretary” (of the Interior).

6. Initiate a science-based review of wolf recovery strategy and recovery goals in the western U.S. and apply relevant information from this effort to inform Mexican wolf recovery planning and implementation. For example, a recent comparison of the genetic consequences of wolf recovery strategies in the Northern Rocky Mountains, southwestern U.S., and Europe (Wayne and Hedrick in press) provides insights relevant to enhancing prospects for successful recovery of the Mexican wolf. Similarly, recent genetic research has allowed evaluation of the level of genetically-effective dispersal between subpopulations in the Northern Rocky Mountains wolf meta-population (vonHoldt et al. 2010). Such techniques should allow development of quantitative recovery goals and rigorous monitoring protocols in the Mexican wolf recovery program, as required by Section 4(1)(B) and (4)(3) of the Act respectively.

The full letter can be found here.