Comment Period Opens on Rules for Releasing, Killing Endangered Animals
SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a 60-day public comment period to help determine the scope of its analysis for rewriting the rule for Mexican gray wolf management.
The rule will govern when and how these rare wolves can be removed from the wild or released from captivity. The court-ordered rewrite of the 2015 management rule stemmed from litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies.
“It’s outrageous that the feds have let a ruthless livestock industry dictate Mexican wolf management, wreaking havoc on their fragile gene pool,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center. “With the public supporting science-based reforms, we hope to see the return of family-pack wolf releases to the wild. The days of shooting wolves from helicopters or trapping them into life in a cage need to end.”
The public comment period allows citizens to outline what management changes they would like to see analyzed in a “draft environmental impact statement” the Service will issue next summer or fall.
In 2018 the federal district court in Tucson ruled that the Service improperly rationalized its 2015 management rule by citing scientists who told the agency it had “misapplied and misinterpreted [their] findings in such a manner that the recovery of the species is compromised.” The court described the scientists’ statements as a “dire warning” and the Service’s ignoring of them as “an egregious oversight.” The court subsequently ordered a new rule to be finalized by May 17, 2021.
The 2015 management rule itself stemmed from the Center’s legal challenge of the 1998 Mexican wolf reintroduction and management rule. But genetic diversity among Mexican wolves continued to suffer under the 2015 rule.
“Political pandering and mismanagement have squandered much of the remaining genetic heritage in the Mexican wolf that was already depleted because of extermination efforts many decades ago,” said Robinson. “This is the third try, since reintroduction began, for the government to write a management plan that actually leads to recovery. They better get it right this time.”
The Mexican gray wolf is the southernmost and smallest subspecies of the gray wolf in North America, as well as the rarest.
Beginning in 1915 the federal government trapped and poisoned wolves, and destroyed pups at their dens, on behalf of the livestock industry. By the 1930s wolves were almost completely absent from the West, and wolves entering from Mexico were quickly killed. In 1950 the Fish and Wildlife Service began sending poison to Mexico, and staff to set up a wolf-poisoning program, as a form of foreign aid.
After the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 and the Mexican wolf added to the endangered list in 1976, a scant seven wolves, comprising three captured from the wild and four already in captivity, proved the foundation for captive breeding; no wolves were confirmed in the wild in Mexico after the last of the seven was captured alive in 1980.
Reintroduction began in 1998 in Arizona and New Mexico, and in 2011 in Sonora, Mexico. At last count there were 163 wild Mexican wolves in the United States. An estimated 30 wolves survive in the wild in Mexico.