By Michael Gerstein
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced Thursday that it has joined a federal and state Mexican gray wolf protection pact.
The head of the department and director of the New Mexico State Game Commission signed a document with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work together on a plan to protect the endangered species at a signing ceremony Wednesday, according to the department.
New Mexico State Game Commission Chairwoman Joanna Prukop called it “an important step toward strengthening our partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and other agencies are also part of the recovery pact.
“We all share the same goal with this program, which is to achieve recovery and turn management of Mexican wolves over to the states and tribes,” said Amy Lueders, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque. “This is a program built on strong partnerships and trust. We are excited to have New Mexico Department of Game and Fish as a cooperating partner and look forward to the expertise and support they bring to the table.”
The state’s Game and Fish Department will participate in an annual wolf population survey this year to help monitor the progress of the animal’s recovery. Seven wolf cubs were placed into wild dens in New Mexico last year.
The Mexican gray wolf faced near extinction in the 1970s.
The department’s decision to join the recovery program comes after the State Game Commission previously voted in late October to do the same.
Environmentalists said then that they were skeptical about whether the state’s new commitment would translate to a quicker recovery for the endangered wolf.