For immediate release: August 7, 2007
Contact: Kieran Suckling, (520) 275-5960
Feds Initiate Reform of Mismanaged Mexican Wolf
Recovery Program, Move Toward Implementing Legal Petition
Filed by Center for Biological Diversity
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today in the Federal Register its intent to establish new regulations to revive its flagging endangered Mexican gray wolf recovery program in New Mexico and Arizona.
In agreement with longstanding complaints by scientists, members of the federal wolf recovery program and environmentalists, the Federal Register notice concludes that the current rules "are not conducive to achieving the reintroduction project objective of re-establishing a viable, self-sustaining population of at least 100 Mexican [gray] wolves."
"The Center for Biological Diversity applauds the Fish and Wildlife Service for taking a hard and honest look at rules limiting the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Adaptive management means changing course when the rules aren't working, and they are definitely not working now. Bad management is always improved by good science, and the Fish and Wildlife Service seems serious now about paying close attention to the science."
Due to politically driven limits on the areas where wolves can freely roam, poor management of livestock on public lands, and overly liberal recapture and kill rules, the wild Mexican wolf population is 55 or fewer today — well short of the recovery program goal of 102 wolves by 2006. Federal agents have killed or permanently removed 53 wolves from the program since 1998. Government killing of wolves began in 2003, reached a peak of five wolves in 2006, and is already at three wolves in 2007.
Potential new rules identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service include 1) allowing wolves to roam outside the designated recovery area (also known as the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area), 2) allowing direct reintroduction of wolves into New Mexico, 3) changing the current definition of "problem" and ``nuisance' wolves' to exclude those which scavenge on dead cattle, and 4) reviewing other recovery actions requested by the Center for Biological Diversity in a 2004 legal petition.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition in 2004 requesting the above mentioned reforms to the recovery program. It filed suit in December 2006 when the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to act on the petition. Today's Federal Register notice comes as the lawsuit enters its final stages. It states that "(t)he issues addressed in this scoping process include issues addressed in a Petition for Rulemaking dated March 29, 2004 provided to the Service by the Center for Biological Diversity. This Notice, and the subsequent public notice and comment period, will provide the public an opportunity to comment on the issues provided in the Center for Biological Diversity's Petition for Rulemaking."
"Its unclear whether today's proposal fully addresses the Center's petition and lawsuit," said Suckling, "but we're willing to discuss the issue with the Fish and Wildlife Service."
Today's notice also responds to increasingly vocal concerns by prominent wildlife scientists:
On June 10th, 2007, almost 600 attendees of the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists passed a resolution calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service "to suspend all predator control directed at Mexican gray wolves at least until the interim 100-wolf goal of the current reintroduction program has been achieved … to protect wolves from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses, ensure the recovery and sustainability of populations of Mexican gray wolves, and allow wolves to roam freely throughout the Southwest."
On June 28, 2007, nine scientists, including retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons, wrote a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service complaining that the recovery program has missed its goal of 102 wolves by nearly 50 percent. They blamed the failure on the high level of killing and removal by federal agents: "For the past four years, growth of the wolf population has been limited by management-related killing or permanent removal of wolves."