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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (July 1, 2022)– Today, Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of a group of conservation organizations that includes WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network, New Mexico Wild, and Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) of their intent to sue the agency under the Endangered Species Act for its failure to adopt an adequate federal rule for recovering Mexican gray wolves (also called “lobos”).
The new rule perpetuates many of the same flaws as its 2015 iteration which was overturned by federal courts in 2018. In the rule published today, the Service maintained its “nonessential” determination for the subspecies, a decision that depends on the cooperation of private breeding facilities, which have no legal obligation to recover wolves, and the persistence of a small population of wolves in Mexico, which is not bound by United States law. Additionally, the rule provides only temporary reprieve for wolves from being killed for livestock depredations, and lacks provisions to address illegal killings. Importantly, it also fails to secure a genetic future for wolves, relying instead on sheer numbers of releases rather than diversity metrics.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re caught in this legal ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ because the Service is refusing to comply with the law that requires recovery of the Mexican wolf based on the best available science,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “The agency has known for a long time what the lobos need, but they apparently would rather have the courts tell them what to do, so here we are again.”
“Mexican wolves evolved to play a critical role in the ecosystem, and they deserve a chance to thrive in the landscapes of the Southwest,” said Sally Paez, a staff attorney for New Mexico Wild. “After forty years of recognition that Mexican wolves need a lifeline to survive, we urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to incorporate the best available science into its management rule to prevent the extinction of Mexican wolves and establish a viable, self-sustaining population in the wild.”
“It is outrageous that, over and over, we have to sue the government agency tasked with recovering lobos in order to get them to act according to science, public interest, and the law,” said Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “But if that’s what it takes, we will go to the mat for these wolves. They are essential. And they belong.
“The Service is once again ignoring the science and its clear legal mandate to manage Mexican wolves in a manner that allows for the true recovery of this critically imperiled species,” said Kelly Nokes, Shared Earth Wildlife Attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center. “We stand ready to once again hold the agency accountable for failing to comply with the Endangered Species Act’s strict conservation commands.”
“The 2018 court remand, tens of thousands of public comments, notable wolf scientists, and the Mexican wolves themselves have been saying that the Service must expand the reintroduction area to include suitable wolf habitat north of Interstate 40, yet the Service failed to take this opportunity to do so. It is unscientific to limit recovery at an arbitrary boundary for a mammal that naturally travels over hundreds of miles,” said Emily Renn, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.
The Notice of Intent to Sue submitted today starts a 60-day clock for the Service to address its failings before the groups will file a complaint in federal district court.