Court Ruling Gives Mexican Wolves a Fighting Chance

The future survival of Mexican wolves has continued to hang in the balance, but now conservationists are celebrating a federal court ruling that could give them a real chance at recovery.

Mexican wolves once roamed vast portions of the Southwest and Mexico, but were persecuted so harshly they were essentially eradicated by the 1900s. In 1976 they were listed as an endangered species and bi-national recovery efforts  began.

Unfortunately, decades later they have yet to make a comeback. As of the last count, there were only 113 individuals living in a small area of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico,  and they’re still considered one of the most endangered mammals in North America.

In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a federal rule that would have harmed their recovery even further by capping their numbers too low for recovery, banning them from expanding to suitable habitat and making it easier for them to be killed.

In response, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit challenging the rule on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, and now they’re celebrating a major victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer Zipps, rejected those measured, ruling that they violated the agencies responsibility under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to help Mexican wolves recover. She also specifically faulted officials for disregarding the opinions of scientists on the issue who raised concerns that the rule would harm recovery efforts.

“This ruling offers hope that the Mexican wolf can be pulled back from the brink of extinction before it is too late,” said Timothy Preso, an attorney for Earthjustice. “The judge made clear that management of the lobo must follow the law and the science on Mexican wolf recovery instead of giving in to the political demands of wolf foes.”

The agency now has 30 days to come up with a revised rule, and while it’s now hoped a revised rule based on science will give Mexican wolves a fighting chance, there’s still more to be done to help them.

At the same time the FWS issued the rule in 2015, it also listed Mexican wolves as a distinct subspecies under the ESA, which entitled them to long-overdue recovery plan, which was finally released this past November.

Unfortunately, that was also harshly criticized for ignoring the best available science, and the will of tens of thousands of people who spoke out in support of Mexican wolves, and is now also being challenged by a lawsuit.

Conservationists have continued to argue that the best available science shows Mexican wolves will need at least three connected populations totaling approximately 750 individuals, more reintroductions  to improve genetic health, and at least two additional populations in the southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon region.

Instead, the plan set the population goal at about half of what is needed to ensure their survival, fails to establish additional populations, doesn’t provide for more releases, fails to ensure genetic diversity, and puts a lot of pressure on Mexico to help them, where they’re not likely to thrive.

As of now, the few who exist in the wild remain vulnerable to a host of problems ranging from a serious lack of genetic diversity, diseases and natural disasters to being legally and illegally killed by humans, and being prevented from venturing into new areas, even though prime habitat has been identified in New Mexico, Arizona, southern Utah, southern Colorado and Texas.

Hopefully the latest ruling and lawsuit challenging the flawed recovery plan will result in a meaningful effort to ensure Mexican wolves remain part of the landscape in the southwest, and ongoing public pressure will stop any further attacks on efforts to help them recover.

Photo credit: Mark Dumont/Flickr

85 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ M9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ M9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ M9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

Thanks

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

Thanks

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Angeles Madrazo
Angeles M10 months ago

Good beginning! Thank you.

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sharon b
sharon b10 months ago

Why are people so determined to kill animals? I simply don't understand how a person can blissfully decide that an animal has no value, and yes let's kill something, take a life. Whatever happened to morals, the sense of right and wrong? The world was created in perfect balance and man has decided they know better and is willfully destroying our earth.

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Marija M
Marija M10 months ago

Please, save them.

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