The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until November 2017 to have a comprehensive recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves. The court settlement comes nearly two years after several environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the federal agency.
Earthjustice—a coalition of environmental organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity—sued Fish and Wildlife in November 2014 to challenge the agency's "delay" in completing a recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, the Center for Biological Diversity says in a press release.
Fish and Wildlife developed what they called a recovery plan for the wolf back in 1982, but "the Service itself admits that this document was incomplete, intended for only short-term application, and 'did not contain objective and measurable recovery criteria for delisting as required by [the Endangered Species Act],'" the press release says.
Most importantly, the 34-year-old document did not provide the necessary science-based guidance to move the Mexican gray wolf toward recovery. Without a recovery plan in place, the Service’s Mexican gray wolf conservation efforts have been hobbled by insufficient releases of captive wolves into the wild population, excessive removals of wolves from the wild, and arbitrary geographic restrictions on wolf occupancy of promising recovery habitat.
The Service in 2010 admitted that the wild Mexican gray wolf population “is not thriving” and remains “at risk of failure,” and further admitted that “failure to develop an up-to-date recovery plan results in inadequate guidance for the reintroduction and recovery effort.”
In September 2015, a federal judge in Tucson rejected Fish and Wildlife's efforts to get the case dismissed. In January of that year, the environmental groups filed a notice of intent to pressure Fish and Wildlife to act on the issue.
As of the end of last year, there are only 97 Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. wild, and fewer than 25 in Mexico, making the animal one of the most endangered mammals in North America, the press release says.