October 15, 2015

Feds might release wolves over state objection

Jeff Cushner

Mexican Gray Wolf Flickr cc

Despite the state Game Commission’s disapproval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning on releasing some Mexican Gray Wolves in Southeastern New Mexico.

Mexican Gray Wolf Photo Credit: Jeff Cushner cc

Jeff Cushner

Mexican Gray Wolf Photo Credit: Jeff Cushner cc

The state Game Commission voted late last month to continue to deny a permit to the federal government for the release. The decision by the commission upheld the decision of a previous director.

The proposed release is part of the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program which seeks to reintroduce the species that was nearly brought to extinction by the 1970s.

The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported the news on the federal decision, citing a statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s obligation under the law to recover this species, and reintroductions into the wild from the more genetically diverse captive population are an essential part of that recovery process,” the statement said.

The New Mexican says the service plans on releasing “about ten” into the Gila National Forest.

The Albuquerque Journal then reported on a “draft statement” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In the statement, FWS said it intends to pursue its Mexican wolf recovery program in New Mexico under federal authority. The Department of Interior has exempted the program from its policy of complying with state permit requirements in New Mexico, FWS said.

“Our preference is always to work collaboratively with states and we ask New Mexico to reengage with us in these efforts,” FWS said.

The program has been controversial since its inception. The reintroduction began in 1998, though the recovery effort began in the late 1970s.

The move comes after some environmental groups and scientists sent a letter to Department of the Interior head Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials calling on the release of the wolves.

From the letter:

As described and supported in detail below, the undersigned 41 conservation organizations, representing tens of thousands of members, and wildlife biologists, respectfully request that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) expeditiously – this year through early next year –– release five or more family packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves from captivity into the Gila Wilderness and encompassing Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

Farmers and ranchers have criticized the program, saying that the wolves feed on livestock and are dangerous.