Flower found in marshes of southern New Mexico listed as threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Wright’s marsh thistle, a type of sunflower found primarily in New Mexico, as a threatened species. As part of the listing, which was announced this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 159 acres of land in seven areas as critical habitat. The Wright’s marsh thistle is already listed as endangered at the state level. 

Some of the factors threatening the flower include livestock grazing, drought, oil and gas extraction, diversion of water and invasive plant species. The plant is found in eastern New Mexico. In the Pecos River Valley, it has vivid pink flowers and dark green foliage.

Leader of the Mangas wolf pack killed following concerns of preying on livestock

A Mexican wolf that was known to prey on livestock has been killed in New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the lethal removal of the wolf, known as M1296 or by the name Rusty, which was given to him by a middle school student participating in a naming competition. The killing was authorized in March and Rusty was killed on April 12. Rusty was part of a pack known as the Mangas Pack that has territory in both New Mexico and Arizona. 

The Mangas Pack lives in the northern Gila National Forest. The pack has run into trouble with livestock in the past and, in 2020, two members of the wolf pack were killed by federal officials due to conflicts with livestock.

Mexican wolf numbers reach highest levels since reintroduction efforts began

More than 200 Mexican wolves are now roaming free in Arizona and New Mexico. The annual wolf count conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documented 241 wolves. This is the first time there have been more than 200 wolves documented since the reintroduction efforts began. “This milestone has been 25 years in the making,” Brady McGee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, said in a press release. “To go from zero wild Mexican wolves at the start to 241 today is truly remarkable.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces lawsuit over lesser prairie chicken

An environmental advocacy group filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the agency has failed to protect the lesser prairie chicken. The Center for Biological Diversity says a final decision in a 2021 proposal to add populations of the bird in New Mexico and Texas to the endangered species list is now five months overdue. 

The proposal calls for the southern population that lives in New Mexico and Texas to be listed as endangered while the northern population in Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and part of Texas would be listed as threatened. Tuesday’s filing comes after the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of its intent to sue in August. “It’s haunting to think that videos of the lesser prairie chicken’s intricate dance may be all that’s left for future generations if these fascinating birds don’t get the protections they’ve been promised,” Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “The oil and gas industry has fought for decades against safeguards for the lesser prairie chicken, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is late issuing its final rule.

Groups pressure federal agencies to address illegal grazing in Valles Caldera

More than a hundred cattle are currently grazing illegally in the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains. Environmental advocacy groups say three federal agencies must take steps to remove those cows and prevent them from returning. WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project and Caldera Action filed a notice of intent to sue the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, alleging that the agencies have failed to protect endangered species from the impacts of the cattle. They say the illegal cattle grazing has been documented going back to at least 2017. “Livestock trampling riparian areas of these protected lands has gone on far too long with federal land managers doing too little to stop it,” Cyndi Tuell, Arizona and New Mexico director of Western Watersheds Project, said in a press release.

Revised recovery plan released for Gila trout

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its plan on Wednesday for recovering the Gila trout, which is found in high mountain streams in parts of New Mexico and Arizona. The plan prioritizes efforts like reintroducing the fish into historical habitats, removing or managing nonnative trout species and captive breeding of the Gila trout at hatcheries. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Gila trout is one of the rarest trout species in the country. It first was listed as endangered in 1973 when the Endangered Species Act passed, but has been recognized as endangered since 1967. It was later downlisted to threatened in 2006.

Advocacy group: Federal agency violated Endangered Species Act

The Center for Biological Diversity says that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has violated the Endangered Species Act when it comes to protecting the lesser prairie chicken. The service published a proposed rule in June 2021 to list two distinct population segments of the lesser prairie chicken. 

The Center for Biological Diversity alleges that the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to finalize the proposed rule in a timely manner. In a court filing made Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity stated that it intends to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service if the rule is not finalized in the next 60 days. The proposed rule would list the lesser prairie chicken living in southeast Colorado, southwest Kansas, northwest Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle as threatened and the population living in west Texas and eastern New Mexico would be listed as endangered. The Center for Biological Diversity says that the rule should have been finalized in June of this year under Endangered Species Act requirements.

Fish and Wildlife Service releases draft recommended decision for Mexican wolves

A draft recommended decision in the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan would eliminate the population cap and temporarily restrict when a wolf can be killed, but environmental advocates say it still falls short of the reforms needed to ensure genetic diversity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the final supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed revision for the Mexican gray wolf regulations on Friday along with the draft recommended decision. The final recommended decision will be issued after at least 30 days have passed. 

This action comes following a 90-day public comment period that started in October. The Fish and Wildlife Service said they received more than 82,000 comments. The agency said in a press release that those comments did not result in any substantial changes to the final supplemental environmental impact statement.

Silverspot butterfly, found in northern New Mexico, could receive federal protection

A butterfly found in northern New Mexico could soon be added to the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday that it is considering listing a subspecies of the silverspot butterfly, which is found in high elevation areas ranging from 5,200 to 8,300 feet above sea level in parts of Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, as threatened. This follows the completion of a peer-reviewed species status assessment report. This is one of five subspecies of the silverspot butterfly and there are only ten known populations of this subspecies. The scientific name is Speyeria nokomis nokomis.

Federal appeals court rejects ranchers’ bid to overturn critical habitat designation for endangered mouse

A federal appeals court rejected two cattle groups’ arguments that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inadequately evaluated the economic implications of designating critical habitat for the meadow jumping mouse in New Mexico. The Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association and the Otero County Cattleman’s Association sued the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018 following the 2016 designation of critical habitat. The ranchers who belong to those groups don’t own land in the designated critical habitat, however they have federal permits to graze cattle on allotments in the area. The rangers argued that the critical habitat designation will increase costs, impact their cattles’ health and lower property values. Private property sales can include federal allotments.