SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to act on a petition filed last August that would reshape and reinvigorate the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort. The petition seeks to accord the Mexican gray wolf a place on the endangered species list as an endangered subspecies or a “distinct population segment” separate from other gray wolf populations in the United States.
“The Mexican gray wolf is distinct from gray wolves in the rest of the United States and deserves strong protections and a focused recovery effort,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Endangered Species Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a preliminary determination, within 90 days, as to whether petitions to list species as threatened or endangered present substantial information supporting the listing. The deadline on the Center’s petition for the Mexican gray wolf expired in November 2009 with no action.
“It’s time for the Obama administration to breathe new life into the recovery program for the Mexican gray wolf,” said Robinson. “Listing the Mexican gray wolf as a distinct entity would require development of a new recovery plan and provide a stronger mandate to protect these distinctive wolves.”
The current federal recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf was developed in 1982 as an interim strategy and does not identify the total number of wolves, distribution of wolf populations, or genetic diversity needed to save the Mexican wolf. Twice the Fish and Wildlife Service convened recovery teams to update that plan, but both times the agency aborted the process, leaving the plan unchanged for 28 years. Development of a new recovery plan would likely include identification of additional recovery areas in which to establish new Mexican wolf populations through reintroduction or natural migration, including potentially the Grand Canyon, Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, Sky Island Mountains of southern Arizona and New Mexico, and southern Rocky Mountains.
“Actions that scientists first identified a decade ago as important to survival and recovery of the Mexican wolf, still have not been implemented,” said Robinson. “This is a direct consequence of operating in a vacuum without a modern recovery plan and the lack of recognition of the Mexican gray wolf as a distinct entity.”
Listing of the Mexican gray wolf and a new recovery plan will also provide guidance for better management of the sole existing wild population in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, Apache National Forest of Arizona, and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. At the end of 2008, that population stood at 52 animals and just two breeding pairs, which falls short of the projected 102 wolves including 18 breeding pairs by the end of 2006 expected under the reintroduction program. The end-of-2009 annual Mexican wolf census is currently underway.