LAS CRUCES — The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Wednesday in a bid to push federal wildlife officials into making rule changes, first recommended 11 years ago, to increase the population of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
“The only wild Mexican wolf population on Earth is stagnant, and losing irreplaceable genetic diversity, because the (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service is ignoring the pleas of scientists and stalling on vital reforms,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s Mexican wolf specialist.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Arizona, marks the latest chapter in a yearslong effort to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to amend project rules that environmentalists and biologists say have stymied the wolf recovery effort. At the start of 2012, there were 58 wolves in national forests in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico, far below the 100 that biologists estimated would be roaming wild by the end of 2006.
In June 2001, three years after the first release of wolves in Arizona, a review team of wolf experts recommended three key changes be made “immediately” to the program. The recommended changes included:
- Allowing the initial release of captive-bred wolves into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, rather than restricting such releases to the Arizona recovery area;
- Allowing wolves to roam outside the boundaries of a designated recovery area; and
- Requiring livestock owners on public land to be responsible for the removal of cow carcasses so that wolves would not acquire a taste for beef by scavenging.
When nearly three years passed and Fish and Wildlife did not adopt any of the recommendations, the Center for Biological Diversity in March 2004 filed a formal petition urging the agency to make the changes.
After a five-year review, completed in 2005, recommended some of the same project changes and Fish and Wildlife still did not adopt them, the Center in December 2006 filed suit against the agency. The Center alleged Fish and Wildlife had violated federal law by dragging its feet on the environmental group’s 2004 petition.
The federal lawsuit was dismissed in August 2007 after Fish and Wildlife said it had started a process to consider changing the program’s management rules, even holding a series of meeting to solicit public comment. But, Robinson said, “Fish and Wildlife has had a long time to work on it, and they’ve made zero progress since 2007.”
The agency has convened a team to develop an updated wolf recovery plan that will include a new lobo population goal, among other things, but the draft is not expected to be released to the public for at least another year.
Submit your letter to the Editor
PLEASE SUBMIT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THANKING THE PAPER FOR THIS ARTICLE AND CALLING ON THE US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO RELEASE MORE WOLVES INTO THE WILD.
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
Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health, especially now.
Remind readers that, at last count, just 58 wolves, including six breeding pairs, survived in the wild. The wild population is extremely small and vulnerable to threats such as disease, inbreeding, or natural events. The USFWS should end the freeze on new releases of captive wolves into the wild.
State that the USFWS needs to change the rule that prohibits releasing wolves into New Mexico if they have not previously lived in the wild. The USFWS has for years been sitting on the Environmental Assessment that would make changing this problematic rule possible. Allowing direct releases in New Mexico will give wildlife managers the flexibility to get more wolves on the ground, regardless of unexpected events like forest fires. It will allow them to choose the best places for releases to succeed. And it will give these important animals a much better chance at recovery.
Advocate for a new, science-based recovery plan to replace the outdated 1982 plan; the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be doing all in its power to expedite release of a draft plan based on the work of the scientific subcommittee. Development of a new recovery plan that will address decreased genetic health and ensure long-term resiliency in Mexican wolf populations must move forward without delay.
Inform readers that obstruction by anti-wolf special interests and politics has kept this small population of unique and critically endangered wolves at the brink of extinction for too long and can no longer be allowed to do so.
Say that to reduce livestock-wolf conflicts livestock owners should be required to remove dead livestock from public lands or render the carcasses inedible (by applying lime). Dead livestock left lying around on the landscape can lead wolves to become habituated to domestic meat.
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.
Please send us a copy at email@example.com as well to help us track actions being taken for the wolves.
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter on behalf of these important animals who cannot speak for themselves!
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