SANTA FE, NM. In response to a recently passed Catron County wolf killing ordinance, a coalition of conservation groups today sent the county a formal notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act. The act requires sixty days advance notice before proceeding with litigation.
In their notice, Forest Guardians, Sinapu, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Rewilding Institute state that the ordinance unlawfully undermines federal wolf management by authorizing a county contractor to kill Mexican gray wolves, contrary to the January 12, 1998 Federal Register notice authorizing the reintroduction that year and the 1973 Endangered Species Act under which those regulations were promulgated. The ordinance would increase wolf killing over the already-unsustainable current rate driven largely by federal predator control.
The Endangered Species Act entrusts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recover endangered species such as the Mexican wolf. The Fish and Wildlife Service has entered into a memorandum of understanding with five other federal, state, and tribal agencies, which have jointly established policies and procedures for wolf management pursuant to the 1998 federal regulations. These policies include rigid and punitive predator control against wolves that leave an arbitrary political boundary and wolves suspected of livestock depredations. The predator-control oriented policies have prevented the wolf population from reaching its initial target of 102 wolves including 18 breeding pairs by Dec. 31, 2006. Currently there are believed to be 57 wolves in five breeding pairs in the wild.
Catron County Ordinance No. 001-2007 seeks to ratchet up wolf killing on behalf of the livestock industry under the guise of protecting people from wolves. Yet the Endangered Species Act already allows the killing of wolves to protect human life.
While mountain lions, black bears, rattlesnakes and other animals present in Catron County have been known in various locations to attack people, Mexican wolves the smallest subspecies of gray wolf in North America never have.
“Catron County’s ordinance is unlawful and would further set back wolf recovery,” says Melissa Hailey, staff attorney for Forest Guardians. “The Mexican wolf exists only in one population, and in incredibly low numbers. These animals need further protection, not increased persecution.”
The groups’ notice says that unless Catron County rescinds its ordinance, conservationists will seek to have it declared invalid in court. The notice further warns that any attempt to act on the county ordinance will spark suit under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act, regardless of whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is prepared to enforce the law.
The Catron County ordinance is one of a series of feckless anti-wolf political gestures undertaken by the livestock industry. A state bill that also conflicts with federal law, dubbed the Little Red Riding Hood Act, fared no better this year than it did when first introduced in the legislature in 2003. An equally histrionic anti-wolf memorial also died due to widespread public opposition. The livestock industry has twice sued to remove all the wolves from the wild, and twice been rebuffed by the courts.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a co-signatory to today’s notice, warned that Catron County must respect federal supremacy under the U.S. Constitution: “We will not allow vigilante justice to further imperil the lobo,” he said.
For a copy of the groups’ Notice of Intent, Catron County Ordinance No. 001-2007, or other information concerning the federal law governing Mexican wolf management, please contact Melissa Hailey. For additional information regarding the history, biology, and/or current make-up of the Mexican wolf population, please contact Michael Robinson. For more information on the Mexican wolf reintroduction project and/or the role of various federal and state agencies in recovering Mexican wolves, please contact Dave Parsons.
Melissa Hailey, Forest Guardians (505) 988-9126 x159
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity (505) 313-7017
Dave Parsons, The Rewilding Institute (505) 275-1944
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