Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases
DENVER (April 25, 2017) – The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today to lift a preliminary injunction blocking further releases of highly endangered Mexican gray wolves into the wild within New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) can now resume wolf releases within the state.
Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the Endangered Species Act, the Mexican gray wolf and everyone who cares about endangered species recovery. Now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife can again release Mexican gray wolves into the wild in New Mexico, we hope that their numbers will continue to climb and that their genetic diversity in the wild will improve. Defenders will continue to work with local communities by providing them proactive strategies and tools to peacefully share the landscape with Mexican gray wolves. We can coexist with these icons of the Southwest.”
Judy Calman, staff attorney for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, said:
"Direct releases of wolves into the wild is one of the most critical tools available to the Fish and Wildlife Service to facilitate species recovery. With this ability restored, the Court has increased the chances that the wolf will once again be able to fill its keystone role in the Gila ecosystem."
Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, are the most endangered gray wolf subspecies in the world. Lobos are facing low numbers and a genetic crisis in the wild. Limited genetic diversity in the wild can result in smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction. Releases of captive wolves are critical to increase lobo genetic diversity in the wild.
Scientists conclude that lobos require at least three linked populations in suitable habitat. Habitat capable of supporting two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.
In May 2016, the state of New Mexico filed suit against FWS after the agency released two pups that they cross-fostered with a family in the wild. New Mexico also requested a preliminary injunction to halt all Mexican gray wolf releases into the wild within the state until the merits of its case were heard.
In June 2016, a federal court granted New Mexico the preliminary injunction, halting all Mexican gray wolf releases within the state. As interveners in the case between the state and FWS, Defenders and our partners appealed that ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Defenders represents Center of Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in this case.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.