October 5, 2022

Wolf advocates sue US Fish and Wildlife Service

Jim Clark/U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife advocates are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, alleging that the revised management plan for the Mexican wolf fails to protect the wild canine.

In a suit filed Monday, the advocates—Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, New Mexico Wilderness Association, Wildlands Network, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project—argued that the plan fails to promote genetic diversity, and leaves the wolf vulnerable to humans.

They further oppose the restriction of the wolf population to an area south of Interstate 40 in Arizona and New Mexico.

“Mexican wolves’ recovery is being hampered by politically motivated management decisions, like arbitrary population goals and geographic boundaries that fall short of what the species truly needs,” Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project, said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “Mexican wolves won’t be on a path to real recovery until the scientific recommendations are no longer being watered down by policies that appease the states and special interests.”  

Related: Fish and Wildlife Service faces criticism over finalized Mexican wolf rule

Advocates also say that defining the small population of wolves in Arizona and New Mexico as non-essential harms protections. 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should treat our single, vulnerable population of Mexican wolves in the wild as ‘essential’ to the survival of the species,” Sally Paez, staff attorney for New Mexico Wild, said in a press release. 

The population is classified as non-essential by Fish and Wildlife in part because there is a population of wolves in Mexico and because of the captive population. The groups oppose this classification.

Related: Fish and Wildlife Service releases draft recommended decision for Mexican wolves

The Endangered Species Act defines an essential population as one that, if lost, would make it hard for the species to continue to exist in the wild.

In addition to the approximately 200 wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, there are fewer than 400 captive wolves used in a breeding program.

“The captive breeding population of Mexican wolves is aging and has lost much of its genetic diversity,” the lawsuit states. “The Service never studied or analyzed or evaluated whether the captive breeding program of Mexican wolves could replace the experimental population of roughly 200 Mexican wolves in the wild.”

The advocates say that scientific evidence shows recovery requires at least 750 wild wolves in the southwest United States, including in the Grand Canyon and the southern Rocky Mountains.