For Immediate Release, June 10, 2016
Press Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Court Enjoins Releases of Mexican Gray Wolves in New Mexico
State Challenge to Federal Authority Harms Recovery of Critically Endangered Wolves
SILVER CITY, N.M.— A federal district court in New Mexico granted a preliminary injunction and a surprise declaratory ruling today in a 3-week court case subordinating federal authority to reintroduce endangered wildlife to the authority exercised by states. Judge William P. Johnson’s ruling banned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from releasing Mexican wolves into New Mexico until it complies with state permitting requirements. The state, under Governor Susana Martinez, has refused to issue a permit to release wolves and sued the federal government when, after years of inaction, it finally began releasing wolves into the wild in April under authority of a January 2015 federal rule.
“This shocking ruling will hopefully not stand on appeal,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We respectfully believe that the court misread the Endangered Species Act’s intent, but unfortunately, while the ruling stands the plight of the Mexican wolf continues to worsen.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is one of four conservation organizations that have filed a motion to intervene in the case.
In addition to blocking the release of additional wolves into the wild, Gov. Martinez’s administration had requested that two captive-born wolf pups who were placed in a wild wolf’s den in April, be removed. Had that occurred, the pups would have had to be hand-reared and would have been ineligible for future release. The court denied that provision in the state of New Mexico’s request.
“We are grateful that the two pups who are now part of the Sheepherders Baseball Park Pack in the Gila National Forest will not be dug out from their den,” said Robinson. “But the broader cruelty to the Mexican wolf population from this ruling still stings.”
The Mexican gray wolf was reduced to just seven animals that survived a U.S. government program from 1915 to 1972 to poison and trap all wolves in the western U.S. and Mexico on behalf of the U.S. livestock industry. The last seven were captured between 1959 and 1980 and bred in captivity. Some of their progeny roam the Southwest, thanks to a 1998 reintroduction program. At last count, 97 wolves live in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona; fewer than 25 wolves also roam in Mexico as a new population stemming from a 2011 reintroduction program.
The livestock industry vehemently opposes wolf recovery, and in response the government has trapped and removed dozens of wolves and shot fourteen. Those removals destroyed or removed all of the most genetically important wolves in the wild. The Fish and Wildlife Service has at various times implemented long-term freezes on further wolf releases. When it finally began releasing wolves again this year, the state of New Mexico filed suit, and within three weeks, obtained both a preliminary injunction and a declaratory judgment.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.