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Court Guarantees Mexican Gray Wolves a Recovery Plan
TUSCON, Ariz. – Today a federal district court approved a joint settlement, setting a clear deadline for a Mexican wolf recovery plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is now required to complete a recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf (or “lobo”) by Nov. 30, 2017, conduct an independent peer review of the draft plan and provide status reports to the courts and parties involved every six months throughout recovery planning.
Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“We will now have a blueprint for the recovery of the most endangered gray wolf in the world. If all the terms of this settlement are met, the best available science will inform Mexican gray wolf recovery, as it always should in endangered species conservation.
“After forty years on the endangered species list and continuous, meritless political attacks, we hope this is a turning point in the race to save the Mexican wolf -- a unique, beautiful animal of the American Southwest – from extinction. We need more wolves and less politics.”
The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is the most endangered gray wolf in the world. With only 97 wolves in the wild in the United States at the last official count and fewer than 25 in Mexico, today the wolf population faces a drop in numbers and a genetic diversity crisis. The 2015 count dropped considerably from the all-time high of 110 wolves in 2014. Releases of captive wolves are critically needed to increase the genetic diversity in the wild lobo population. Limited genetic diversity in the wild is leading to smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction.
FWS has never written or implemented a legally sufficient Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Its most recent recovery team has done extensive, rigorous work to determine what needs to be done to save the Mexican gray wolf. Recovery team scientists agreed that, in order to survive, lobos require the establishment of at least three linked populations. Habitat capable of supporting the two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The recovery team drafted a plan in 2012 that called for establishing three interconnected Mexican gray wolf populations totaling at least 750 animals in these areas, but the plan has never been finalized.
In April 2016 Defenders of Wildlife and its partners – all represented by Earthjustice -- and FWS filed a settlement agreement in federal district court that requires FWS to complete a valid recovery plan for the lobo by Nov. 2017. Defenders and its partners also asked for peer review of the recovery plan to ensure its scientific integrity. The court approved this settlement agreement today.
In May 2016 the state of New Mexico filed a case against FWS, charging that the agency did not have permission to release endangered lobos into the wild. The state also requested a preliminary injunction, halting all releases of Mexican gray wolf adults and pups into the wild. One month later, a federal court granted the state of New Mexico a preliminary injunction until the merits of the case are heard. Defenders and our partners intervened on behalf of FWS in this case, arguing that the state had no authority to block these critically needed lobo releases, and have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org. Get the latest Defenders news on Twitter @defendersnews.