The New Mexico Game Commission approved the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's final Mexican wolf recovery plan during a meeting Wednesday morning in Albuquerque, a move that some hope signals the start of a better relationship between the two groups.
“These are encouraging developments because it shows the state is finally supporting the recovery of Mexican gray wolves,” said Bryan Bird, director of the Southwest Program for Defenders of Wildlife.
Last year, the state's Department of Game and Fish, which is overseen by the commission, sued Fish and Wildlife to block the planned release of wolves in the state.
That litigation is pending.
Defenders of Wildlife and others had previously sued Fish and Wildlife to create a new recovery plan, because it had not been updated since 1982.
The final plan was issued at the end of November.
The commission voted in August to support a draft of the plan.
“The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is satisfied with the Mexican wolf recovery plan which includes measurable recovery criteria, biological and legal considerations,” the Department of Game and Fish said in a statement. “Key to our support is that consideration of the historical range of the Mexican wolf are taken into account, recognizing that approximately 90 percent of the subspecies' historical habitat exists in Mexico.”
On Wednesday, the commission also approved Fish and Wildlife permits to allow the cross-fostering of up to 12 pups in New Mexico in 2018 and for some pups to be moved into captivity in New Mexico from Arizona.
Cross-fostering involves placing very young pups born in captivity into wild litters.
Sherry Barrett, Mexican wolf recovery coordinator with Fish and Wildlife, said litters shouldn't be made up of more than eight pups.
So in the event the pups being introduced to a litter bring that number above eight, pups already in the den would need to be removed and taken to New Mexico, she said.
The commission also approved Fish and Wildlife's request to move a female wolf currently in Arizona to New Mexico to be artificially inseminated.
The female is paired with her biological brother, and Fish and Wildlife are hoping to prevent the two from breeding.
The wolf's lack of genetic diversity is one of the largest challenges in the subspecies' recovery.
“This definitely will assist us in moving cooperatively forward with the state of New Mexico,” Barrett said.