Long-awaited Plan Would Strip Wolves’ Endangered Species Protections
SILVER CITY, N.M.— Following legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Trump administration today released a draft Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan — but the plan would prematurely strip federal protections for the wolves, increasing the vulnerability of this highly imperiled species.
The new plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls for removing endangered species protections while there are just 320 wolves in a small area of Arizona and New Mexico, along with 170 in Mexico. That is far fewer wolves than the number scientists have said is necessary for a viable population.
The plan also precludes recovery of wolves in regions that independent scientists say are essential to their long-term survival — the Grand Canyon and southern Rocky Mountains in northern Arizona and New Mexico, along with southern Utah and Colorado.
“The Trump administration is shrugging off the best available science to appease anti-wolf states like Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This reckless plan would turn over management of these unique and beautiful animals to wolf-hating state officials well before they’re fully recovered and secure.”
The plan runs directly counter to the conclusions of a 2012 recovery team formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which included independent scientists and concluded that three U.S. populations of at least 750 animals were needed for Mexican wolf recovery. This would have required establishing additional populations in the Grand Canyon ecosystem and the southern Rocky Mountains. This previous plan was scrapped after Utah and Colorado, which don’t currently have wolf populations, objected.
“Independent biologists have concluded that recovery of Mexican gray wolves in the Grand Canyon and southern Rocky Mountains regions is essential to the long-term recovery of the species,” said Robinson. “In disregarding the science, the Trump administration would strip protections for wolves prematurely, subjecting a still-vulnerable population to merciless persecution.”
Serious flaws in the draft plan should come as no surprise since the Trump administration appointed Greg Sheehan, former head of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, as deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Sheehan — a longtime opponent of Mexican wolf recovery with no scientific training — will need to sign off on any plan developed by the agency’s scientists.
Replacing an interim and long-outdated 1982 plan, the public has 60 days to comment on the new recovery plan.
At last count 113 Mexican gray wolves, including just 10 breeding pairs, live in Arizona and New Mexico, and around 30 to 35 wolves in Mexico. The wolves in the United States are genetically impoverished and are as related to each other, on average, as are siblings in a normal population. That’s due to the small founding population and mismanagement after reintroduction on behalf of the livestock industry, including government trapping and shooting of genetically rare wolves and infrequent releases of less closely related wolves from captivity into the wild. This condition results in births of smaller litters of pups and in fewer pups surviving to adulthood.