Friday, May 2, 2008
Second Suit In 2 Days Targets Wolf Program
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES For the second time in two days, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's management of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program was targeted by a federal lawsuit filed by conservation groups.
Eleven conservation groups filed a lawsuit in Tucson on Thursday, seeking a court order to overturn the recovery program's management by an interagency oversight committee.
The suit also seeks to nullify a controversial rule, known as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 13, that requires the removal of wolves that have preyed on livestock three times in a one-year period. The lawsuit comes on the heels of another, filed Wednesday in Phoenix, by WildEarth Guardians and the ReWilding Institute. The initial suit also takes aim at SOP 13 but on different legal grounds. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Thursday are: Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, New Mexico Audubon Council, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, the University of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, The Wildlands Project, Sierra Club, Southwest Environmental Center and the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.
The latest lawsuit claims the Fish and Wildlife Service relinquished management authority over the wolf recovery program when, in 2003, it created the interagency Adaptive Management Oversight Committee, or AMOC, to oversee the project. The AMOC is composed of USDA Wildlife Services, which traps and shoots some wolves, the Arizona and New Mexico game and fish departments, and several other county, state and federal agencies, the suit says.
Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown said she could not comment directly on the latest lawsuit because she had not seen it Thursday. Since the oversight committee adopted SOP 13 in October 2005, wolves have been removed from the wild for livestock depredation at an increasing pace.
When wolves were released into southeast Arizona in 1998, recovery program managers estimated the population would grow to 102 by the end of 2006, but by the end of 2007 there were only 52 wolves in the recovery area.