By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
Photo by C Morrison
LAS CRUCES — Ranchers and two southern New Mexico counties sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in federal court Friday for changing a policy about capturing cow-killing Mexican wolves without first conducting a study on the change’s impact on humans.
The lawsuit says that rules governing the federally-managed wolf reintroduction effort, launched in 1998, provided for the removal of wolves that prey on livestock in the recovery area of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
But since last year, Fish and Wildlife, in an effort to bolster the population of wild wolves, has stopped adhering to a 2005 standard operating procedure, known as SOP 13, that called for the removal or killing of wolves that preyed on three or more cattle in a one-year period.
The lawsuit says that the rule about removing “problem wolves” is being ignored, and that a change in the policy requires an environmental study on the impact of the change under the National Environmental Policy Act. “¦
In response to the faltering wild wolf numbers and litigation by conservationists, in May 2009 a multi-agency committee, including members of Fish and Wildlife and the Arizona and New Mexico game and fish departments, approved a “clarification memo” stating they were “authorized and expected” to be flexible in removing cattle-killing wolves.
After that, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest regional director, Benjamin Tuggle, decided several times to leave a wolf in the wild even though it had killed more than three cattle in a year.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said he believes the lawsuit will fail.
“There’s nothing in (the recovery project rule) that requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove any particular wolf,” Robinson said. “It gives them the authority to do that, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of conservation.”
You can read the entire article published in the Albuquerque Journal on August 23, 2010, and post a comment here (non-subscribers can use the Trial Access Pass link).
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