A federal magistrate has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that state Game and Fish officials violated the Endangered Species Act by permitting trapping in an area designated for the recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
The lawsuit, filed by the environmental organization WildEarth Guardians in February, continued a public policy debate over the wisdom and legality of New Mexico allowing the use of leg-hold traps, intended for coyotes but capable of snagging wolves, in national forests designated for wolf recovery.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson, an advocate of the wolf recovery project, issued an executive order in July 2010 to halt commercial and recreational trapping in New Mexico’s portion of federal forests where lobos roam while the issue of whether trapping harmed the wild wolf population was studied over a six-month period. Despite the executive order, the Game and Fish Department allowed coyote trapping to continue because coyote hunting is not regulated by the state.
A study by the U.S. Geological Survey, released in August 2011, showed that trapping by people not connected to the recovery effort had injured seven wolves, leading to two wolf deaths and two leg amputations.
Before the study’s release, Game and Fish commissioners, most of whom were appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez, lifted the trapping ban. They did so based on a department recommendation that said the study showed trapping accounted for only a fraction of documented wolf injuries and deaths in the recovery area.
U.S. Magistrate Lorenzo Garcia on Monday dismissed the suit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.
Game and Fish Director Jim Lane, who was named as a defendant in the suit along with Game Commission Chairman Jim McClintic, called the decision a victory for “real conservationists,” state authority over wildlife management and the “integrity of the Endangered Species Act.”
Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians called the decision disappointing, adding: “It seems to us under the plain language of the Endangered Species Act that one can neither harm nor trap an endangered species, and clearly that’s what’s happening.”
The lawsuit alleged that state officials violated federal law and rules by failing to exercise “due care” to avoid taking wolves when they allowed coyote trapping in wolf range. The judicial ruling issued Monday concluded that federal rules requiring the exercise of due care to avoid injury to wolves applied to the trapping itself, not the “regulation or licensing of trapping.”
This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal
Other news sources that covered this story include:
Tucson News — Arizona
Desert News Now — Arizona
KTAR — Arizona
San Francisco Chronicle — California
Artesia News — New Mexico
Santa Fe New Mexican — New Mexico
My San Antonio — Texas
Houston Chronicle — Texas
PLEASE SUBMIT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THANKING THE PAPER FOR THIS ARTICLE AND ASK FOR GREATER PROTECTIONS FOR MEXICAN GRAY WOLVES.
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
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Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Remind readers that, With only around 60 mexican wolves left in the wild all possible precautions need to be taken to protect this endangered species. Trapping has injured 7 Mexican gray wolves, including two wolf deaths and two leg amputations. More losses and injuries due to trapping to this critically endangered population is unacceptable.
Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.
Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
Describe the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife. Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams — just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.