Contrary to the Journal editors’ claim that the revised Mexican wolf recovery plan reflects compromise and science, it reflects special interest politics and flawed science.
Perhaps the editors were unaware of a draft plan developed in 2012 by independent scientists appointed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the previous multi-stakeholder recovery team, which presented science-based recovery criteria that the states rejected. No effort to reach a compromise was offered or attempted.
Instead, the FWS shelved that plan, shut down the work of that team and started over. This new plan was developed in secret closed meetings with only representatives of the four Southwestern state game departments invited to participate. The Endangered Species Act requires decisions to be based on the best available science. The new team generated its own non-peer-reviewed science to support much lower recovery criteria. The FWS published over 250 pages of supporting “scientific” justification, used a sophisticated model to predict extinction probabilities, then tossed the science aside and asked the states how many wolves they would tolerate. The model output was capped at the states’ arbitrary upper “social tolerance” limit of 320 wolves in the U.S. Southwest, all south of Interstate 40, an admitted “geo-political” boundary.
To prevent extinction of Mexican wolves, the model forced all additional recovery needs to Mexico, where the FWS has no jurisdiction. The approved plan will guarantee that no more than a running average of 320 Mexican wolves will ever be allowed to exist in the entire U.S. Southwest.
The independent scientists recommend a total of 750 wolves in three separate populations connected by dispersal corridors with suitable habitats. The scientists recommended expansion of the current population in the Gila region, and two additional populations in the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona and southern Utah, and the southern Rocky Mountains region of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The two additional regions lie north of Interstate 40. It comes as no surprise that the New Mexico Game Commission, known to be antithetical to wolf recovery, approved the new plan because members got to dictate its content. Once again, the states win and the lobos lose.