Many of us in New Mexico, Arizona, and points beyond were waiting last week to hear what a U.S. District Judge in Las Cruces was going to say about wolf introductions (releases) in New Mexico.
For a a quick recap of how we got to this point, this article about a 100 year old Mexican wolf pelt that was returned to New Mexico last year tells a bit about the history of the lobo (and its demise) in the Southwest and also about recent changes to the recovery effort that now calls for introduction of the endangered wolves in New Mexico. Up until now initial releases only occurred in Arizona with wolves being allowed to migrate across the state line into the Gila National Forest (Gila).
Objecting to the new rules, the NM Department of Game and Fish refused to issue permits to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) granting them permission to release wolves in the state. The conflict escalated once it became known that in April FWS had placed two captive-born pups with a pack living in the Gila without a permit. That’s when the state went to court to request a restraining order to not only halt future wolf releases, but to also remove the pups.
A few days before the judge issued a ruling, four conservation groups—Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance—filed a motion on behalf of the wolves. In this Albuquerque Journal guest column, Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity makes the compelling argument that Mexican wolves need to be rescued from politics if they are to have a real chance at recovery.
Over the last few weeks, in newspapers around the state there have been numerous letters to the editor written in support of wolf releases in New Mexico. Curious, I did a little more looking to see if there had been letters expressing other viewpoints. I did not find any, although there is opposition.
On Friday, June 10th, the judge issued a 24-page opinion granting the state’s request to prohibit the release of wolves in the state without a permit. The ruling inhibits FWS’s ability to get more wolves out into the wild in an ongoing effort to improve genetic diversity.
The good news? The wolf pups, recently placed with a wild foster pack in the GIla, will be allowed to stay.
The wolves, of course, are oblivious to the drama. About now, the pups of the year are beginning to explore their surroundings. Over the summer they will start to travel with the pack, short trips at first until they are bigger and stronger. And on a dark quiet night they will discover their voices, following the lead of the adults, joining in the chorus, lifting their heads in a first howl.