SANTA FE, NM – After receiving word of Catron County’s intent to remove the Durango Pack’s pregnant alpha female from the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, a coalition of conservation groups have called on the criminal enforcement arm of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to stop this illegal killing in its tracks. Forest Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sinapu, and the Rewilding Institute have sent the agency an official request for federal intervention in the promised county removal of Mexican wolf F924.
The county’s demand for wolf removal is its first application of ordinance 001-2007, which authorizes the Catron County Commission to have wolves killed in their own recovery zone. Once the county has voted to remove a wolf as it did last week, the ordinance requires that a county official kill the wolf if the Fish & Wildlife Service won’t remove the animal immediately.
The conservation coalition claims that the ordinance is unlawful, and plans to sue to have it invalidated. Under the Endangered Species Act, the groups cannot file their civil claims until at least 60 days after serving the county with their notice of intent. Federal prosecutors, however, can bring criminal charges against Catron County for attempting to commit a violation of the Act at any time, and can seek penalties of up to $50,000 and one year imprisonment.
Although the Service has not been particularly vocal about Catron County’s ordinance, the agency has agreed with the conservation groups that federal law trumps any conflicting county ordinance, and denies that there is any justifiable reason for removing F924. Now that Catron County has cast its first vote for wolf removal, the conservation coalition expects the Fish & Wildlife Service to respond to the county’s demand letter with criminal charges.
“The Service is obligated to protect Mexican gray wolves from illegal harm,” says Melissa Hailey, staff attorney for Forest Guardians. “Catron County has publicly declared its intent to kill the Durango alpha female and her unborn pups, and we implore the agency to carry out its conservation mandate and save these animals from certain death.”
FOR RELEASE: May 2, 2007
CONTACT: Melissa Hailey, Staff Attorney (505) 988-9126 x159
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