The Mexican gray wolf has found its way back into the courtroom. A consortium of interests is fighting to return wolf trapping and hunting to the New Mexico backcountry.
Once indigenous to the region, wolves were almost completely eradicated from the American West by the 1950s. The animals were eliminated largely for the benefit of the livestock industry, and most ranchers and farmers remain strongly opposed to the idea of returning the canids to the region.
The wolf continues to face a desperate path south of the Colorado border, where the Mexican wolf reintroduction has foundered for more than a decade. In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took a step toward improving the odds for the Mexican gray wolf. The service agreed to reassume the lead in the recovery effort and end the controversial “wolf-control” rule, where an animal suspected of killing three cattle in a year would be killed.
In response to this, New Mexico’s Catron and Otero counties, two livestock industry associations and three ranching outfits have sued the Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The plaintiffs allege that the settlement violated the National Environmental Policy Act, and they seek the ability to resume trapping and hunting of the endangered animals.
Represented by the Durango-based Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife have intervened in the “frivolous” lawsuit.
“We are intervening in part to prevent any settlement agreement that would rid our public lands of the Mexican gray wolf. In order for wolf recovery to be successful, it’s vital that we keep political forces from influencing what should be a science-based process,” said Michael Robinson, of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Eva Sargent, of the Defenders of Wildlife, added, “The Fish and Wildlife Service made the right call when it stopped wolf removals. We are intervening on the side of the Fish and Wildlife Service to defend that decision, so the service can move forward with developing a science-based plan with clear goals for wolf recovery. With the Mexican wolf on the edge of extinction, every effort must be made to keep wolves in the wild and bolster the population.”
To read the full article, published in the Durango Herald on November 18, 2010, click here.
An article on the same topic was published in the Silver City Daily Press on November 15, 2010.
Photo credit: Mexican gray wolf courtesy of Brian Gratwicke