Wolf advocates sue: 'Recovery plan' sets Mexican wolves on road to extinction

For immediate release

Jan. 30, 2018


Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-324-8011, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Christopher Smith, WildEarth Guardians, 505-395-6177, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, 520-623-1878, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Judy Calman, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, 505-615-5020, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kim Crumbo, Wildlands Network, 928-606-5850, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wolf advocates sue: 'Recovery plan' sets Mexican wolves on road to extinction

Plan violates Endangered Species Act in nine different ways

Tucson, AZ —Today Southwestern wolf advocates challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in court over its 2017 Mexican wolf recovery plan, which violates the Endangered Species Act, excludes the best available science, and imposes an arbitrary population cap admittedly based on "social tolerance," increasing endangered lobos' extinction risk.

A 2012 draft plan written by agency-appointed scientists recommended a management target of at least 750 Mexican wolves in three populations across their native Southwestern range connected via wildlife corridors. The Service's deeply flawed final 2017 recovery plan, devised in closed meetings with only state game department representatives present, ignores the best available science and doesn't come close to the scientists' recommendation, targeting a total of just 320 wolves and using an interstate highway as an arbitrary boundary restricting their territory.

"This recovery plan was designed by politicians and anti-wolf states, not by independent biologists," said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. "It’s an affront to the ESA and Congress’ directive make decisions solely on the best available science."

The Service claims the plan is peer reviewed, but the agency failed to incorporate the valid scientific concerns raised by many of the peer reviewers and leading wolf experts, including but not limited to Dr. Carlos Carroll, Dr. Richard Fredrickson, the American Society of Mammalogists, the Society for Conservation Biology, Mike Phillips and David Parsons.

"The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has kowtowed to anti-wolf interests instead of heeding the best available science," said Christopher Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. "This new plan is a dramatic swerve away from recovery and toward extinction and with this lawsuit, we are demanding the Service reverse course."

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs a plan that guarantees a large enough population of Mexican wolves to be viable over the long term, with sufficient habitat wolves to flourish," said Greta Anderson of Western Watersheds Project. "But the current recovery plan doesn’t do that, and instead the federal government seems more intent on appeasing anti-wolf political interests than in doing its job, which is recovering endangered species to healthy and secure population levels."

The plan fails to account for the wolves' current genetic crisis due to inbreeding, defies science with its made-up population cap, incorporates incomplete and uncertain data, and includes inaccurate assumptions about mortality rates.

The plan eschews Mexican wolf conservation in areas of suitable but currently unoccupied habitat, including the southern Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon area. It focuses solely on a single area where the subspecies currently resides and is restricted from leaving. The Service never analyzed other suitable habitat, including those identified in a significant body of scientific literature for recovery purposes.

The plan also ignores variations in which habitat is suitable resulting from climate change, and assumes – in the absence of any meaningful data or analysis on available prey density – Mexico possesses sufficient habitat to support restoration efforts. In addition, the plan ignores the impacts of a border wall that would prevent any connectivity between the U.S. and Mexican lobo populations.

"Mexican wolves are an essential part of the country's first wilderness area and other southwestern forests", said Judy Calman, staff attorney with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. "To thrive, our wildest places need keystone species like the wolf, and we remain committed to ensuring its actual recovery from the brink of extinction". 

The plan fails to properly analyze and address the likelihood of extinction, how long it could take, and what degree of risk is acceptable even if the final plan’s criteria are met. It relies on flawed population abundance, geographic distribution, and genetic criteria determinations, including a faulty definition of "surviving to breeding age" that requires no evidence of breeding in the wild, as well as inaccurate data and science on the number of "effective releases" needed to ensure adequate genetic representation in the two wild populations.

"The plan excludes crucial habitat surrounding and including Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, which are core areas scientists consider most likely to support recovery of this imperiled carnivore," said Kim Crumbo, conservation director for Wildlands Network. "The plan also excludes southwestern Colorado, an area that contains more public land and prey for wolves than anywhere else in the U.S. outside of Alaska. For these reasons, the plan doesn’t protect Mexican wolves; it fails them."

Under the plan, only two isolated populations –a single subpopulation in of approximately 320 wolves in the U.S. and a Mexican subpopulation of 200 –is required for delisting. This conflicts with the Endangered Species Act's mandate to conserve/recover the Mexican wolf subspecies "throughout all or a significant portion of its range" as well as the Service’s own definition of recovery. If Mexican wolf numbers in Mexico increase to 200 but the subspecies remains limited to a single isolated population in the U.S., Mexican wolves are not "recovered" under the Endangered Species Act. Not a single published peer-reviewed study suggests otherwise.

Today’s suit is brought by WildEarth Guardians and the Western Watershed Project represented by attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wildlands Network will join the suit once their notice period has run.


The lobo, or Mexican wolf, is the smallest, most genetically distinct, and one of the rarest subspecies of gray wolf. The species was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1978, but recovery efforts have largely foundered because the Service has yet to implement scientifically recommended recovery actions.

Although lobos once widely roamed across the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, the Mexican wolf was purposefully eradicated from the U.S. on behalf of American livestock, hunting, and trapping interests. Recognizing the Mexican wolf's extreme imperilment, the Service listed it on the federal endangered species list in 1976, but recovery efforts have largely foundered because the Service has yet to take the actions science shows is necessary to restore the species.

In 1998, after the few remaining wolves were put into captivity in an attempt to save the species, the Service released 11 Mexican wolves to a small area on the border of Arizona and New Mexico now known as the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The program has limped along ever since, with illegal killings and sanctioned removals subverting recovery. 

At last official count, 113 wolves roam the American Southwest. Mexican wolves are at tremendous risk due to their small population size, limited gene pool, threats from trapping, Wildlife Services’ activities, and illegal killings.


Mexican Wolf Stamp Contest - 2018


About The Contest:

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance invites submissions for the 2018 Mexican Wolf Conservation Stamp.  Artists worldwide are invited to enter two-dimensional drawings, paintings, or photographs featuring the Mexican gray wolf.  The winning artwork will be featured on the 2018 stamp that will be sold to raise funds to support Mexican wolf conservation and education projects.  All artwork must be scalable to the size of the stamp, 4.5-inches wide by 5.5-inches tall.  Please submit electronic images of original artwork by March 1, 2018 to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About The Stamp:

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance issued its first Mexican Wolf Conservation Stamp in 2011. This collectible stamp is similar to the US Fish and Wildlife’s duck stamp, which funds wetlands conservation– but the stamp is in no way related to hunting. All proceeds from sales of the wolf stamp directly benefit activities to support Mexican wolf conservation and education projects. The 4.5×5.5 inch full-color stamp is sold exclusively through NM Wild and is a framing-quality print for collectors.

New Mexico Wild Applauds Introduction of Bill


New Mexico Wild Applauds Introduction of Bill to Enhance and Protect New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments

Contact: Mark Allison, Executive Director, New Mexico Wild, 505-239-0906, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Albuquerque, NM, January 30, 2018 - New Mexico Wild applauded today’s introduction of the America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States Act of 2018 (“The ANTIQUITIES Act” of 2018) in the United States Senate. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) sponsored and introduced the bill and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) co-sponsored the legislation.

This legislation would legislatively protect 51 national monuments that were designated by executive authority dating back to 1996, including those threatened by President Trump’s national monument review.

New Mexico Wild has always asserted that a president does not have the authority to rescind, harm, or amend previous presidential proclamations made under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Last year, New Mexico Wild announced its intention to bring legal action against President Trump if either of New Mexico’s national monuments named in the review, Rio Grande del Norte (RGDN) or Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (OMDP), were harmed. New Mexico Wild is filing an amicus brief in solidarity with the All Pueblo Council of Governors for the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which President Trump shrunk by 85 percent in December.

While New Mexico Wild will continue to stand ready to take additional legal action if necessary, we welcome New Mexico’s Senators' leadership in taking steps to enhance these national monuments, including expanding protections for the Bears Ears National Monument.

Moreover, New Mexico Wild and our thousands of supporters throughout the state are elated that the bill would designate over 249,000 acres of federal public lands in New Mexico as Wilderness, consisting of lands within the RGDN and OMDP national monuments.

“These areas have a special place in the heart of New Mexicans and this legislation recognizes the desire to keep them wild and free for this and all future generations” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “New Mexicans are rightly proud of the importance of these areas to our natural and cultural heritage.”

Designated in 2013 and 2014 respectively, both RGDN and OMDP enjoy overwhelming community support from diverse coalitions of business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, local and elected officials, faith leaders, and the general public. During the recent comment period for the Department of Interior national monument review process, New Mexico had the most comments submitted per capita of any state with nearly 98 percent of those for RGDN and 93 percent of the comments received for OMDP wanting no changes. New Mexicans support protection of these areas as sources of clean water; areas to practice traditional uses such as hunting, fishing, and as ceremonial sites; places to recreate; and for the health of New Mexico’s economy.  

“This bill recognizes and responds to the extreme attacks President Trump has leveled against the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, our national monuments, and public lands in general,” said Allison. “Once again, Senators Udall and Heinrich have demonstrated the vision and leadership to go to bat for New Mexicans and protect the Land of Enchantment. They are doing what we all want the rest of Congress to be doing – offering solutions.”



ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO WILDERNESS ALLIANCE: The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a non-profit 501 (C)(3), grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. Founded 20 years ago with staff and supporters throughout the state, the organization is aligned with our nation’s landmark Wilderness Act of 1964 and is dedicated to the rights and the value of citizen involvement in protecting increasingly rare wild places within public lands. Just as freedom is every American’s birthright so too is Wilderness.

Cerros del Norte Conservation Act passes U.S. Senate

Christmas Miracle! Cerros del Norte Conservation Act passes U.S. Senate

Senate passes measure to protect special areas as wilderness within Río Grande del Norte National Monument



John Olivas, (505)379-5551, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TAOS, NM (December 22, 2017) – Just days before Christmas, the U.S. Senate passed the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S. 432).  A diverse coalition of business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, local and federal elected officials, grazing permittees, and more applauded the passage.

“My livelihood depends on the backcountry within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” said local outfitter/guide Stuart Wilde. “The passage of the Cerros del Norte Bill reflects the value that New Mexican’s place on wilderness and wild places. In a time when our public lands are under constant threat, this reaffirms our community’s commitment to the protection and conservation of our most special places.”

The legislation would provide extra protection for special areas contained within Río Grande del Norte National Monu­ment by designating two new wilderness areas –Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio.  The national monument was designated by President Obama in 2013 after Congress failed time and again to move legislation supported by the local community.  Because only Congress can designate Wilderness, Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduced the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act following the national monument designation to protect these critical areas.


“Wilderness areas provide the best wildlife habitat for the numerous land and water species that call this area home.  These two wilderness designations will ensure that future generations of hunters and anglers will always have true backcountry areas to visit in northern New Mexico. I want to thank Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their steadfast leadership in safeguarding our natural heritage,” added Nick Streit, owner of Taos Fly Shop.

Grazing would continue in the already-existing areas and water rights would not be impacted. Additionally, the proposed wilderness areas within the national monument serve as one of the world’s great avian migratory routes. It is also home to important game species like pronghorn and elk.  The legislation would also safeguard world-class recreation opportunities already enjoyed within the national monument, such as hiking, hunting, and fishing. 

Erminio Martinez, a grazing permittee, said, “My family has been ranching in Northern New Mexico for over 400 years, and we want future generations to have these same opportunities. The national monument designation has not impacted our operations, and neither will preserving Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio as wilderness. Our cattle depend upon clean and abundant water, and wilderness will help preserve the resource protecting the time honored tradition we value so deeply.

 Wilderness designation within the national monument will boost local businesses:

The two proposed wil­derness areas in the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act will comprise 21,540 acres of the 242,500-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.