Lawsuit to challenge USFWS on ‘recovery permit’ for wolves released in Mexico
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — While the U.S. and Mexico are supposed to be cooperating on a recovery program for endangered Mexican gray wolves, things could get sticky in the desert Southwest, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims authority to capture any wolves that are released in Mexico and cross the border.
Captured wolves would be placed into the captive-breeding program, returned to where they came from, or relocated into the Mexican wolf recovery area, but wildlife conservation advocates say the federal government failed to follow its own regulations in giving itself a “recovery permit.”
“It’s fantastic that Mexico’s working to restore wolves to its northern wilds,” said Michael Robinson, wolf recovery specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “And of course, these wolves in northern Mexico don’t recognize political boundaries. If they’re able to set up a home range that crosses the border, it would be tragic and wrong for Fish and Wildlife officials to then capture them and snatch them out of that home.”
To prevent that, the Center for Biological Diversity last week said it will file a lawsuit aimed at preventing the federal agency from exercising that recovery option.
“Without any review or public notice, the Fish and Wildlife Service has given itself autocratic authority to capture fully endangered wolves,” Robinson said. “Taking wolves out of perfectly good habitat makes no sense. We need to recover wolves to the Sierra Madre and Sky Islands, as well as the mountains of northern New Mexico.”
Over the past month, the Center has filed two other lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Mexican wolf — one to compel reform of the stalled reintroduction program in the United States and another to give protection to the Mexican wolf as a subspecies, or distinct population, of the more widespread gray wolf, deserving of its own, modern recovery plan.
Right now the only Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico are in the “Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,” an area between Interstate 40 and Interstate 10 where wolves are considered an experimental, non-essential population and therefore enjoy fewer safeguards.
The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America, and the most imperiled. Trapping and poisoning by the Fish and Wildlife Service, in both the United States and Mexico, prior to the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act reduced Mexican wolves to just seven remaining animals. These were caught alive and bred in captivity, enabling future reintroduction efforts in the two countries.