Environs petition for new Mexican wolf plan
by Center for Biological Diversity press release
December 6, 2008
Conservationists filed a formal petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling on the agency to revise the outdated and legally invalid Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. The petition was filed under authority of the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which requires the government to consider and, if appropriate, to act in a timely fashion on petitions that seek to better implement existing legal obligations. Amendments to the Endangered Species Act in 1988 established content standards for recovery plans not met in the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan.
A new, up-to-date recovery plan is necessary to ensure the future recovery of Mexican wolves within their historic range. The 1982 plan called for breeding Mexican wolves in captivity and establishing at least two viable populations through reintroduction, including enabling the first reintroduced population to reach at least 100 animals.
The 1982 plan provides antiquated guidance in managing reintroduced Mexican wolves, and does not include benchmarks for downlisting the species to threatened status nor for removing it from federal protection. These shortcomings have enabled a highly politicized Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid taking steps to grow the population, which in a count taken at the beginning of this year stood at 52 animals and just three breeding pairs.
"It’s time to free the lobo from the shackles of an antiquated recovery plan," said Rob Edward, director of carnivore recovery for WildEarth Guardians. A revised recovery plan should be completed before revisions to policies governing the reintroduction project are completed, Edward said. "It’s a fool’s errand to base new policies on a plan that has been gathering dust for over two decades," he said. "We’re managing these rare wolves based on a plan written before the advent of the personal computer."
A previous Mexican Wolf Recovery Team completed a working draft of a new recovery plan in 1996, but the federal agency never approved it. In 1998, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would revise the existing recovery plan, but did not do so. In 2003, the agency appointed a new recovery team, which was on track to complete an updated plan in 2005. In March 2005, the agency’s regional director, H. Dale Hall – now the national director of the agency – suspended meetings of the team.
Dave Parsons, formerly the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service and now the carnivore conservation biologist for The Rewilding Institute, drove home the imperative of revising the recovery plan. "At the end of 2007, 26 years after adoption of a recovery plan and nearly 11 years following initial reintroductions, the total wild population of Mexican wolves is far short of reintroduction goals. We could lose the lobo in the wild for a second time if my former agency doesn’t get serious about recovery."
"Recovery is the goal of the Endangered Species Act, and recovery plans are road maps showing how to get there," said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "A recovery plan without recovery criteria is the equivalent of a map showing a flat Earth with edges dropping off. North America’s most imperiled mammal deserves the benefits of 21st century science."