WASHINGTON — For the second time in less than two weeks, a Tucson-based conversation group has sued the federal government over its handling of the Mexican gray wolf.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., challenging an Oct. 9 Interior Department decision that denied a 2009 request to list Mexican gray wolves as a subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. Such a listing would let the subspecies, found in New Mexico and Arizona, continue to be protected even as the larger gray wolf species is taken off the list.
It comes just days after the center filed another suit, on Nov. 28, against Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the wolves. Fewer than 60 of the animals were counted in Arizona and New Mexico this year.
“They’re (the lawsuits) interrelated as Fish and Wildlife is using the excuse of not finishing one project, as the excuse for not finishing another project,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the center.
Calls to the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday. But when the center sued last month, officials with those agencies declined comment, either because they had not seen the suit or it was ongoing litigation.
Monday’s suit charged that the service had said in Aug. 4, 2010, that listing the Mexican gray wolf as a subspecies “may be warranted,” but then reversed itself this October.
It’s not the first time the service has changed its position on the status of the Mexican gray wolf. It was listed as a subspecies starting in 1976, but in 1978 the service consolidated all gray wolf subspecies into one endangered species listing in all of the lower 48 states except Minnesota, Robinson said.
“We petitioned in 2009 to get the Mexican wolf on the list as its own entity and just this fall they rejected that petition,” he said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has essentially stalled at every turn about doing anything affirmative to help the Mexican gray wolf, which is slipping toward extinction.
“They say Mexican wolves aren’t on the list as Mexican wolves,” Robinson said. “They’re only on the list as gray wolves and we can’t finalize a recovery plan for a creature that isn’t on the list as its own entity.”
Through that recovery program, captive-raised Mexican gray wolves were released into the wild in 1998. But the November suit said that the government failed to act on recommendations to assist the recovery program.
“In 2004 we petitioned for reforms in the reintroduction plan that scientists had advised,” Robinson said. “We are suing on that over eight years later because those reforms were never implemented.”
A population count in January estimated that only 58 Mexican wolves were alive in the Southwest. Scientists say that makes the genetic pool dangerously shallow and that Mexican gray wolves may be suffering from inbreeding as a result.
“That is causing lower litter sizes among pups born in the wild, and among the pups fewer of them are surviving to adulthood,” Robinson said. He said that without more wolves and more genetic diversity, eventually there might not be a way for the population to recover.
“We don’t want to look back in 10 years and wonder if there was anything else we could have done to save them,” Robinson said.
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Caring Crisis: Rising tide In Alzheimer’s disease leads to shortage of caregivers
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain