| Dec. 14, 2006
Michael J. Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (505) 534-0360
Suit Challenges Bush Administration Refusal
Federal Recovery Team Scientists Condemn Agency Hostility to Science,
The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today in Washington, D.C. challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to implement the recommendations of a scientific panel convened to save the agency’s faltering Mexican Gray Wolf recovery program. Scientific members of the federal Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Team issued extended statements today explaining that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s hostility toward science is undermining the wolf recovery program.
“The endangered Gray Wolf is a resilient, prolific, intelligent species,” said Michael Robinson, carnivore conservation coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. “If protected from shooting and given room to roam, it will recover quickly.”
The well-managed Great Lakes population increased from about 500 individuals in 1963 to 3,880 in 2004. The northern Rocky Mountains population increased from zero in the 1970s to 912 in 2005. The Mexican Gray Wolf recovery program, however, has faltered. There are less than 50 adult wolves in the wild today.
“Recovering wolves is not rocket science,” said Robinson. “It just takes respect for biology and some political will. Unfortunately, Fish and Wildlife Service bureaucrats have neither.”
In a prepared statement, David R. Parsons, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator (1991-1999) said “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is systematically undermining recovery of the Mexican wolf.” Its “management appears to throw science out the window… the agencies continue to kill and remove Mexican wolves from the wild population at rates that preclude achievement of recovery objectives…. Anti-wolf politics have been controlling agency decisions and actions to the detriment of wolf recovery.”
Also in a prepared statement, John A. Vucetich, member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery team and professor of biology at Michigan Technological University, said “In the late 1990s, great effort – in the face of great obstacles – led to important improvements in the condition of Mexican wolves…. Now, in more recent years conditions have deteriorated substantially… Governments have ignored critical recommendations presented in the only independent assessment ever conducted regarding the Mexican wolf recovery program – a set of recommendations that were commissioned by the government.”
In June, 2001 an independent scientific panel convened by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduction program. Vucetich, Mike Phillips from the Turner Endangered Species Fund and Paul C. Paquet from the University of Calgary were members of the panel. The science panel concluded that “Survival and recruitment rates, however, are far too low to ensure population growth or persistence. Without dramatic improvement in these vital rates, the wolf population will fall short of predictions for upcoming years.”
It recommended specific management changes to ensure the Mexican Wolf’s recovery:
1. “Immediately modify the final rule and develop the authority to conduct initial
2. “Immediately modify the final rule to allow wolves that are not management problems to establish territories outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area… Retrieving animals because they wander outside the primary recovery area is inappropriate because it is inconsistent with the Service’s approach to recover wolves in the southeast, Great Lakes
3. “Require livestock operators on public land to take some responsibility for carcass management/disposal to reduce the likelihood that wolves become habituated to feeding on livestock…Such diligence will probably reduce predation on livestock, which in turn will improve the cost-effectiveness and certainty of the reintroduction project.” (pp. 67-68).
Neither the Great Lakes nor the Northern Rockies recovery programs are saddled with such devastating and politically motivated limits on wolf recovery.
None of these central recommendations were implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Consequently, as predicted by the science panel, population goals have not been met. The current population is well short of the 102 projected for year-end 2006. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s predator control agency has killed and trapped so many wolves that the wild population is actually declining.
To jump start the recovery program, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal petition on March 29, 2004, asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to implement the three reforms. The agency has refused to reform the program or even respond to the petition as required by law. Today’s lawsuit seeks to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to review the petition and enact stricter wolf protection standards.
“The science is well-established, the wolves know what to do, the only thing holding this recovery program down is political intervention,” said Robinson.
The Center for Biological Diversity is represented in this case by Erin Tobin and Katherine Meyer of the firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
The Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org) is a national non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and habitat.