U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review Mexican wolf management

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review its management of the Mexican gray wolf, in response to a court order. ©Jason Bechtel

In response to a 2018 court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review its Mexican gray wolf management by preparing a supplement to their 2014 environmental impact statement.

The supplement to the impact statement, under the National Environmental Policy Act, will revise the Service’s 2015 rule regarding the existing nonessential experimental population designation of the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. The court determined that the Service’s 2015 rule failed to further the long-term conservation and recovery of the Mexican wolf.

In 1998, the Service first established a nonessential experimental population, or a population that is not essential for the continued existence of the species, of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. A year after completing an environmental impact statement in 2014, the agency published a final rule revising the wolves’ nonessential experimental designation and management of the population.

The final rule in 2015 established a population objective of 300 to 325 wolves and expanded the population’s designated range and areas where releases of the wolves could be made to supplement the experimental population. The rule also adopted a new management approach to minimize or avoid impacts to wild ungulate populations in western Arizona, and authorized removal and take of the animals when they established territories outside of the designated experimental area or threatened livestock, non-feral dogs, or as part of wild ungulate management efforts.

The Center for Biological Diversity and others challenged this in court, arguing that the Service set a population goal that is too low for long-term conservation and recovery, unduly restricted habitat available to the wolves and unreasonably loosened rules for removing wolves. The court agreed that the final rule would not support the long-term conservation and recovery of Mexican wolves and sent the rule back to the agency for reconsideration, which spurred an EIS supplement.

Comments will be accepted on the supplement to the EIS through June 15. The Service is specifically requesting comments on the “nonessential” designation of the population, information available since the 2017 recovery plan was published that could aid in establishing a population objective, genetic consideration in managing the nonessential population, and the social and economic considerations in allowing the take of wolves.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura’s articles.

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