Breaking News: Wildlife Orgs Sue Trump Admin for Failing to Protect ‘El Lobo,’ the Mexican Wolf

(EnviroNews Nature) — Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit on January 30, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Arizona against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), alleging the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by ignoring science relevant to the recovery of the beleaguered Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), a.k.a. “el lobo.” The legal action comes on the heels of USFWS’ November release of its long-anticipated Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan — a strategy conservation groups say appeases red state ranchers and falls flat in the face of science.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians (Guardians), names Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and USFWS Acting Director Greg Sheehan. The complaint asserts the USFWS, an ancillary arm of the Interior Department, turned a deaf ear to its own scientists’ recommendations for the minimum number of wolves and the amount of habitat needed for recovery and removal from the endangered species list.

“This recovery plan was designed by politicians and anti-wolf states, not by independent biologists,” said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. “It’s an affront to the ESA and Congress’ directive [is to] make decisions solely on the best available science.”

The Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the endangered gray wolf (Canis lupus), was granted endangered species status in 1976 after being hunted to near-extinction. At one point, el lobo almost blinked out entirely after plunging to a low of only 15 animals remaining in the wild. In 1982, the USFWS initiated the original Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan to determine a course of action for keeping the species alive. It included a captive breeding program, which in 1988, released three distinct lineages of the animal into the ecosystem.

In 2011, the USFWS’ Science and Planning Subgroup of the Recovery Team (the Subgroup), staffed by independent scientists, recommended that delisting only occur after a 750-wolf total is achieved in the wild. Additionally, the Subgroup recommended that lands in eastern Arizona/western New Mexico, the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona and southern Utah, and the southern Rockies region of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado be allotted as Mexican wolf habitat for recovery efforts.

Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

Despite these recommendations, state governments in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona have set substantial roadblocks in the way of recovery, including a demand that no wolves set foot north of I-40, which runs east-to-west across northern New Mexico and Arizona — meaning no wolves would be allowed to exist in Utah or Colorado whatsoever.

Today, the lobo population in the United States has rebounded slightly, hovering at around 113 animals, with an additional 31 living in Mexico. Yet, instead of following the scientists’ recommendations, the USFWS’ First Revision of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan concluded that 320 wolves would be sufficient for recovery, and in terms of habitat, it left out the Grand Canyon and southern Rockies regions for “geopolitical reasons,” a move environmental lawyers say is a fundamental violation of the ESA.

“The ecosystems in this region need wolves and the people in this region want wolves — polls overwhelmingly suggest that. So, to eschew the science-based pathway for recovery and instead implement a politically-driven and extremely flawed plan is an affront to people and place,” said Christopher Smith, Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate for WildEarth Guardians, in an email to EnviroNews.

Conservation groups are suing on four causes of action they say violate the ESA and APA (Administrative Procedure Act), including having “no reasonable explanation for departure” from the Subgroup’s recommendations, “failure to provide objective, measurable criteria necessary for delisting” the wolf, “failure to utilize the best available science,” and “failure to provide site-specific management actions necessary for conservation.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs a plan that guarantees a large enough population of Mexican wolves to be viable over the long term, with sufficient habitat [for] wolves to flourish,” said Greta Anderson of Western Watersheds Project. “But the current recovery plan doesn’t do that, and instead the federal government seems more intent on appeasing anti-wolf political interests than in doing its job, which is recovering endangered species to healthy and secure population levels.”

The three aforementioned NGOs, which will be joined in the suit by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wildlands Network, want the court to force the USFWS to have another go at the plan, but this time around, they want it to follow the law as stated by the ESA and ensure that science alone, not politics, guides the recovery of the Mexican wolf.

RELATED NEWS FROM ENVIRONEWS

Governments in CO/UT/NM/AZ Deliberately Derailed Mexican Wolf Recovery, Documents Reveal (Investigative Report)

(EnviroNews Colorado) – After decades of deliberation the final revision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (the Plan) was released at the end of November, but former USFWS officials tell EnviroNews it strays far from scientists’ minimum recommendations for recovery of the…

Victory for Mexican Gray Wolves: Court Stops Injunction, Allows Releases from Captivity to Proceed

(EnviroNews Nature) – Denver, Colorado – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) can continue to release Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) from captivity into the wild after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction halting the program on April 25, 2017, which conservationists say…

OTHER GREAT STORIES ABOUT WOLVES FROM ENVIRONEWS

Wyoming Wolves Stripped of Endangered Species Act Protection – Shoot-on-Sight Policy Restored

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Gray wolves (Canis lupus) will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the state of Wyoming. That was the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on March 3, 2017, which also happened to be…

These Species Should Be ‘Endangered’ But Aren’t Due to Political Horse Trading, Report Reveals

(EnviroNews Colorado) – Special-interest politics – not sound science – decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten…

It’s Done: Trump Signs HJR 69 into Law Allowing Slaughter of Alaskan Bear Cubs, Wolf Pups

(EnviroNews Alaska) – Washington D.C. – On April 3, 2017, President Donald Trump signed House Joint Resolution 69 (HJR 69) into law. The legislation rescinds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2016 Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule (Refuge Rule). The Refuge Rule was enacted to protect native…

Bill Allowing Slaughter of Alaskan Bear Cubs, Wolf Pups, Sails Through Senate to Trump’s Desk

(EnviroNews Alaska) – Washington D.C. – On March 21, 2017, in a 52-47 vote, the Senate passed House Joint Resolution 69 (HJR 69), a Congressional Review Act resolution to rescind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule (Refuge Rule), which has been in…

Center for Biological Diversity Sues Trump for Signing HJR 69 Allowing Slaughter of Bear Cubs, Wolf Pups

(EnviroNews USA Headline News) – Washington D.C. – The Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Anchorage, Alaska, on April 20, 2017, against the U.S. Department of Interior (Interior) and Secretary Ryan Zinke, after President Donald Trump signed House Joint Resolution…

Shocking Video Shows the Guts of HJR 69: Trump’s Alaskan Bear Cub/Wolf Pup Killing Bill

(EnviroNews Nature) – Playground, a news and media site, has produced a graphic video showing shocking hunting practices that are now legal in Alaska’s wildlife refuges. These methods, which have been called “scientifically indefensible” and “unsportsmanlike” by defenders of animal rights, include hunting bears from aircraft, killing bear…

Elk Hunting Group Wants to Expand Wolf-Killing Derby into Montana: $1,000 Bounty per Wolf

(EnviroNews Montana) – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), which has funded wolf-killing derbies in Idaho to the tune of $150,000 since 2013, is now seeking to expand its $1,000-per-kill bounty program to the neighboring state of Montana. RMEF provides funds to the Foundation for Wildlife Management (F4WM),…

WA State Stops Bloodshed After Massacring Profanity Peak Wolf Pack To Appease Cattle Ranchers

(EnviroNews Washington) – Olympia, Washington – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced October 19, 2016, that it would spare the remaining four members of the now demolished Profanity Peak Wolf Pack, after already having killed seven of its wolves (Canis lupus) to appease cattle ranchers….

Five Environmental Groups Sue USDA Over Idaho Wolf-Killing Program

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Boise, Idaho – On June 1, 2016, five prominent environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services for killing over 650 wolves in the state of Idaho over the past decade. Wildlife Services is…

Federal Government Sued For Killing Wolves in Oregon

(EnviroNews Oregon) – Five environmental groups filed a lawsuit on February 3, 2016, in U.S. District Court against the federal agency Wildlife Services, over what they say is the illegitimate killing of wolves in the state of Oregon. WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Predator Defense, and Project…

Idaho Wolf-Killing Contest Killed for One More Year – Kind of…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Facing a lawsuit from conservation groups, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has revoked a permit allowing for a “predator derby” to take place on approximately three million acres of public lands in north-central Idaho near the town of Salmon. The derby originally called for…

California the First to Ban Predator Prizes While Idaho Forges Ahead With Wolf-Killing Derby

(EnviroNews California) – Van Nuys, CA – Will not allowing prizes for California wildlife hunting derbies deter such events from taking place? Groups like Project Coyote certainly think so. On December 3, with a 4 to 1 vote, the California Fish and Game Commission passed a motion prohibiting…

Poll Closed: Should U.S. Government Maintain a Wolf-Killing Program? Yes or No? – View Results

(EnviroNews Polls) – In December of 2015, several environmental groups, spearheaded by WildEarth Guardians, won a pivotal lawsuit against Wildlife Services, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agency, for its wolf-killing program in Washington State. On February 3, 2016, WildEarth Guardians, in concert with four other groups, filed…