WASHINGTON – For the second time in less than two weeks, a Tucson-based conversation group has sued the federal government over its handling of the Mexican gray wolf.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., challenging an Oct. 9 Interior Department decision that denied a 2009 request to list Mexican gray wolves as a subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. Such a listing would let the subspecies, found in New Mexico and Arizona, continue to be protected even as the larger gray wolf species is taken off the list.
It comes just days after the center filed another suit, on Nov. 28, against Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the wolvese U.S. Depar. Fewer than 60 of the animals were counted in Arizona and New Mexico this year.
“They’re (the lawsuits) interrelated as Fish and Wildlife is using the excuse of not finishing one project, as the excuse for not finishing another project,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the center.
Calls to the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday. But when the center sued last month, officials with those agencies declined comment, either because they had not seen the suit or it was ongoing litigation.
Monday’s suit charged that the service had said in Aug. 4, 2010, that listing the Mexican gray wolf as a subspecies “may be warranted,” but then reversed itself this October.
It’s not the first time the service has changed its position on the status of the Mexican gray wolf. It was listed as a subspecies starting in 1976, but in 1978 the service consolidated all gray wolf subspecies into one endangered species listing in all of the lower 48 states except Minnesota, Robinson said.
“We petitioned in 2009 to get the Mexican wolf on the list as its own entity and just this fall they rejected that petition,” he said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has essentially stalled at every turn about doing anything affirmative to help the Mexican gray wolf, which is slipping toward extinction.
“They say Mexican wolves aren’t on the list as Mexican wolves,” Robinson said. “They’re only on the list as gray wolves and we can’t finalize a recovery plan for a creature that isn’t on the list as its own entity.”
Through that recovery program, captive-raised Mexican gray wolves were released into the wild in 1998. But the November suit said that the government failed to act on recommendations to assist the recovery program.
“In 2004 we petitioned for reforms in the reintroduction plan that scientists had advised,” Robinson said. “We are suing on that over eight years later because those reforms were never implemented.”
A population count in January estimated that only 58 Mexican wolves were alive in the Southwest. Scientists say that makes the genetic pool dangerously shallow and that Mexican gray wolves may be suffering from inbreeding as a result.
“That is causing lower litter sizes among pups born in the wild, and among the pups fewer of them are surviving to adulthood,” Robinson said. He said that without more wolves and more genetic diversity, eventually there might not be a way for the population to recover.
“We don’t want to look back in 10 years and wonder if there was anything else we could have done to save them,” Robinson said.
TAKE ACTION NOW
A separate subspecies listing under the Endangered Species Act would give the small wild population of Mexican gray wolves more protection, which they desperately need. Benefits could include things like the designation of critical habitat, Forest Service actions to avoid harm to the wolves and their habitat, timely completion of the Recovery Plan, and needed changes in the rules governing the Mexican gray wolf Program.
Please write a letter to the editor thanking the Cronkite News for this article and supporting greater protections for endangered Mexican 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
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 email@example.com.
Start by thanking paper for publishing the article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
Remind readers that the last population count found only 58 Mexican gray wolves in the wild. A separate subspecies listing under the Endangered Species Act would give the small wild population of Mexican gray wolves more protection, which they desperately need.
Point out that Mexican gray wolves deserve a separate listing, both legally and biologically. Mexican wolves are geographically and morphologically distinct from other gray wolves, and under their current "experimental, non-essential" classification, have remained at the brink of extinction in the wild since they were reintroduced.
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.
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