Local & Regional News

Press Release: Lawsuit Launched to Challenge New Federal Rule that Fails to Recover Mexican Gray Wolves

For immediate release July 1, 2022

Media Contacts:

Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project (520)623-1878; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Chris Smith, WildEarth Guardians (505) 395-6177; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Emily Renn, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project (928) 202-1325; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mark Allison, New Mexico Wild (505) 239-0906; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Kelly Nokes, Western Environmental Law Center (575)613-8051; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lawsuit Launched to Challenge New Federal Rule that Fails to Recover Mexican Gray Wolves

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Today, Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of 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.

Mexican gray wolf management rule finalized

KNAU News Talk - Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted June 30, 2022 by KNAU Staff

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a new rule that removes a population cap for endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest.

Officials had previously limited the species to 325 animals in Arizona and New Mexico.

But a 2018 court decision forced the agency to rewrite parts of its management plan for the wolves.

Fish and Wildlife will also temporarily halt some forms of federal, state and private wolf-killing.

Wolf advocates have applauded parts of the new rule, but say it lacks some reforms needed to increase genetic diversity of the species by releasing captive-born adult wolves into the wild.

Federal and state wildlife officials have relied on placing captive-born pups into wild dens to diversify the animal’s genetics with mixed success.

Mr. Goodbar survived a gunshot, but lost a leg. Other Mexican gray wolves are not so lucky

El Paso Times (Original) Posted June 2, 2022 by Martha Pskowski

A Mexican gray wolf named Mr. Goodbar has roamed on three legs near U.S. Route 60 in rural New Mexico for weeks.

Every so often the two-year-old wolf’s GPS collar pings to a new location. Past the ranching town of Magdalena, west toward Dátil. Through grasslands and forest, perhaps scavenging some roadkill along the way. He has covered untold miles since a gunshot wound to his right hind leg in January required amputation.

While Mr. Goodbar survived the shooting, many other Mexican wolves have not been so lucky: people have illegally killed more than 100 in the wild since 1998.

His story is a window into the challenges for recovery of the endangered species that currently numbers at less than 200 in the wild.

Conservation advocates filed a lawsuit in 2018 arguing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) failed to meet requirements of the Endangered Species Act to address illegal killings. A judge ruled in their favor last fall, prompting USFWS to update the Mexican wolf recovery plan.

USFWS released a revised plan in April, with additional strategies to reduce poaching, including more education for ranchers and hunters and additional law enforcement. But conservation advocates who brought the lawsuit say the plan doesn’t go far enough and overlooks effective strategies to protect wolves.

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Wildlife officials 'cross-foster' 11 Mexican gray wolf pups into wild packs

KNAU News Talk - Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted May 27, 2022 by KNAU STAFF

Wildlife officials say 11 captive-born endangered Mexican gray wolf pups have been placed into wild dens in an effort to increase genetic diversity within the species.

Over three weeks this spring the pups were cross-fostered into packs in New Mexico and Arizona from facilities across the U.S.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the pups were mixed with similarly aged wolves within 14 days of being born and will be raised by the mother wolf and the rest of the pack.

Officials say 11 pups was a lower number than they’d hoped for this season.

Since the beginning of the program, 83 pups have been placed in wild dens and 13 have survived to breeding age. Four have reproduced.

Wolf advocates, however, say releasing more adult wolves into the wild would help the species recover more quickly and be a more effective way to diversify the animal’s genetics.

At last count there were at least 196 wild Mexican wolves in the Southwest.

Proposed revision of Mexican wolf management plan draws criticism

KNAU News Talk - Arizona Public Radio (Original) Posted May 16, 2022 by the Associated Press

U.S. wildlife managers want to see at least 320 Mexican gray wolves roaming the Southwest within the next several years.

While a population cap would be eliminated under a proposed management rule, environmentalists say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t going far enough to ensure the recovery of the endangered species.

They're pushing for the release of more captive wolves — specifically bonded pairs with pups.

Federal officials on Friday released their proposed management plan for the wolves and a related environmental review.

A court order required the revised plan to be finalized by July 1.

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