ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being sued over
what environmentalists claim is the agency’s failure to implement decade-old
recommendations aimed at boosting recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed its lawsuit Wednesday in Washington,
“The only wild Mexican wolf population on Earth is stagnant and losing
irreplaceable genetic diversity because the Fish and Wildlife Service is
ignoring the pleas of scientists and stalling on vital reforms,” said Michael
Robinson, a wolf specialist with the environmental group.
The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment on the litigation, saying it
hasn’t had a chance to review the lawsuit.
The complaint centers on recommendations developed by a panel of scientists
that was convened by the agency in 2001 to review the wolf program. The panel
came up with more than a dozen recommendations that included releasing more
wolves and reducing the number of wolves removed from the wild due to livestock
scavenging and other reasons.
The recommendations also called for allowing wolves to live outside the
recovery zone that straddles the Arizona-New Mexico border. The scientists had
said that limiting the wolves’ range wasn’t something that had been done with
recovery efforts in the Northern Rockies, the Great Lakes or the Southeast and
that such a policy would lead to “serious logistical and credibility problems”
as the population grows.
The scientists also called for the recovery plan that guides wolf management to
be revised by June 2002. A decade later, that has yet to be done.
Efforts to return the wolves to the American Southwest have been hampered by
everything from politics to illegal killings. Disputes over management of the
program have also spurred numerous legal actions by environmentalists who have
been pushing for more wolves in the wild and ranchers who are concerned about
their livelihoods and safety in rural communities.
At last count, there were at least 58 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New
Mexico _ far below what biologists had initially expected. The next survey will
begin in January.
The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned in 2004 to have the Fish
and Wildlife Service implement the recommendations that called for allowing
wolves to roam outside the recovery area, releasing wolves directly into the
vast Gila National Forest in New Mexico and requiring ranchers to remove
livestock carcasses to discourage the predators from developing a taste for
The agency pledged to consider the recommendations in response to a 2006
lawsuit, so that suit was dropped. However, nothing has been done, Robinson
“We’re trying to jumpstart this reintroduction program before it’s too late,”