The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said this week that its request for a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been removed from state to federal court.
New Mexico is seeking to stop Fish and Wildlife from releasing Mexican gray wolves in the state under a nearly two-decades-old program to reintroduce the endangered species into the wild.
The state and federal government have been sparring over the reintroduction program for more than a year.
The conflict came to a head last month when Fish and Wildlife released two Mexican wolf pups into a wild den in Catron County, flouting Game and Fish’s decision last year to deny the service permits to release wolves in the state.
Game and Fish filed its request for a temporary restraining order in New Mexico’s 7th Judicial District last week. The application was moved to U.S. District Court in Las Cruces on Friday.
“Although we anticipated this move, we believe recent actions by the USFWS violate state and federal law,” Game and Fish Director Alexandra Sandoval said in a statement. “Regardless of venue, we are committed to pursuing this matter.”
The Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to “cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the states” as it pursues species recovery programs. Fish and Wildlife has said that it would pursue its recovery objectives regardless of the state’s recent opposition to the program.
Fish and Wildlife told the Journal last week that it does not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy and could not respond to questions related to the temporary restraining order.
However, in a statement regarding its decision to “cross-foster” the wolf pups into a wild den, the service said, “Recovery of the Mexican wolf is a Service priority. … The plan for cross-fostering Mexican wolves was developed in collaboration with partner agencies, and we continue to work closely with them on implementing this and other Mexican wolf recovery actions.”
Game and Fish has based its opposition to the wolf recovery program in part on the failure of Fish and Wildlife to develop a new recovery plan that would set goals for population and habitat.
Fish and Wildlife has undertaken the recovery planning process for the fourth time – after previous attempts to develop a plan fell apart – and is scheduled to deliver a new plan in 2017.