Mexican Gray Wolf One Step Closer to Separate Protection Under Endangered Species Act
Recognition Will Mean Increased Protection, New Recovery Standards
SILVER CITY, N.M.— A Center for Biological Diversity settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, filed today with a federal court, requires the Service to respond by July 31, 2010 — one month from today — to a 32-page petition submitted by the Center last August asking for recognition of the Mexican gray wolf as an endangered species separate from gray wolves in the rest of the country. The federal agency had missed a 90-day deadline to issue an initial finding on the petition’s scientific validity.
“Today’s settlement agreement is a victory for the Mexican gray wolf, which now has a shot to receive the recognition and protection it needs to survive,” said Michael Robinson of the Center. “The Mexican gray wolf’s distinctiveness from other gray wolves means their survival and recovery is of heightened significance.”
A separate listing for the Mexican wolf as a subspecies or distinct population would compel the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a new Mexican wolf recovery plan, which the agency has been promising to do since the mid-1990s.
The Center’s petition cites multiple independent assessments that the Mexican wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf and also describes the peril to Mexican wolves from government and private persecution and habitat loss. Mexican wolves are smaller than other gray wolves and inhabit very different ecosystems.
In 1976, the Mexican gray wolf was originally listed as endangered separate from other gray wolves, but in 1978 the Fish and Wildlife Service consolidated the various wolf subspecies listings into a single listing for the conterminous United States. In 1982, the Service did issue a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, which called for captive breeding and establishment through reintroduction of two viable populations in the wild, but it failed to contain criteria for recovery and delisting — an omission the Service has used to stall progress in securing the viability of the first reintroduced population, in the Gila and Apache national forests of New Mexico and Arizona, as well as stall any planning for establishing additional populations. Once the Mexican wolf is separately listed, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be required to update the recovery plan — something that is merely discretionary right now.
“With today’s settlement, we hope Mexican wolf recovery can get back on track,” said Robinson. “With its own listing and recovery plan, the Mexican wolf should see needed reforms in management and eventual return to the other Southwest habitats where it once roamed.”