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Mexican Gray Wolf: Lawsuit Filed in Arizona for Lack of Updated Recovery Plan

Jun 09, 2015 01:14 PM EDT
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The Arizona Game and Fish Department, along with the Attorney General's Office, filed a lawsuit Monday against the federal government for lacking an updated recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, an endangered species.

According to the state, the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) need to publish a revised plan that would improve Arizona's involvement in recovery efforts, as well as put a cap on the number of Mexican wolves for the area.

"If you think about wildlife management, part of what you want is for a target number of animals for there to be a balance in the rest of the biotic community," Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department assistant director for wildlife management, told The Arizona Republic. "You don't want to have too many of the one thing. We want a healthy population of wolves in balance with social, economic and wildlife needs in the state of Arizona."

Currently, only 83 Mexican gray wolves and five breeding pairs exist in the wild after hunting largely wiped them out. The original recovery plan for the species, established in 1982, allowed the FWS to maintain a captive breeding and reintroduction program to boost their numbers. For instance, 100 Mexican wolves were released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona and New Mexico in 1998.

Since then the Mexican wolf population has grown slowly, with 109 wolves now living in Arizona, deVos said.

While this might be considered good news, to the Game and Fish Department, the 1982 plan makes it difficult for the wolves to ever be removed from the list of endangered species. According to the agency, the new guidelines would identify how many animals it would take to consider the Mexican gray wolf officially recovered.

For decades, there have been conflicts between the wolves and ranchers, who worry for their valuable livestock. But federal protections restrict how these conflicts can be addressed, even when wolves kill livestock grazing on federal lands. On the other hand, conservationists are constantly pushing for more wolf protections, since they are still listed as an endangered species. And this latest lawsuit predictably doesn't sit well with some of these wildlife advocates.

"They advocated for caps on the number of wolves," said Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter director. "Who puts an artificial cap on an endangered species? From a biological perspective and if they're interested in recovery, they would not advocate for that."

Despite some complaints, the Game and Fish Department has every intention of following through with its plan, determined to see the FWS develop a new and proper plan that has all the ingredients for a successful recovery.

According to KNAU, this isn't the only lawsuit the state is involved in over the Mexican gray wolf. It has also sued the FWS in an effort to block plans to allow Mexican wolves to populate larges areas of Arizona that allegedly are not part of its historic range.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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