The future of Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) with revisions to the reintroduction program for the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in Arizona and New Mexico. Notwithstanding the fact that this should have been a full recovery plan, and that FWS has to divorce the highly imperiled lobos from its ill-conceived plan to delist gray wolves nationally, there are also some critical problems with the new proposal itself that conservationists will want to note. See below.

The FWS is holding public hearings next week in Arizona and New Mexico to take public comment on the rule revision. More information about the hearings can be found online at this link.  If you live in the area and can make it to one of the hearings to express your support for full wolf recovery, please do!

Problems with the proposal are the usual industry-appeasement provisions that doom wolf recovery everywhere: More circumstances that would justify lethal or permanent removal in more places. This species’ recovery has been set back by such heavy-handed management and making it easier for livestock operators to kill wolves IS NOT the way to recover them. Additionally, it allows for wolf “removal” where they have unacceptable impacts to wild ungulates– their prey! Read this editorial from the Arizona Republic, “What are wolves supposed to do? Order a pizza?” if you can’t see what’s wrong with that picture.

The proposed rule also maintains the “non-essential” designation (the “10(j)” rule) that fails to give lobos the full protection of the ESA. Lobos are essential.

And while the new rule would expand the areas that lobos are allowed to occupy in Arizona and New Mexico– from Texas to California and south to the U.S.-Mexico border– it does not expand their permissible range north of Interstate 40 into the Grand Canyon region or northern New Mexico. This has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with the science that shows many acres in these areas would be suitable habitat for the species.

Written comments on the proposed rulechange will be accepted until September 23, 2014.

Submit your comments electronically here:!documentDetail;D=FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056-6056 Or by U.S. mail or hand delivery to: 
Public Comments
Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2013–
0056; Division of Policy and Directives
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.




  1. Amre Avatar

    Has FWS learned anything from the times when so many mexican wolves were removed from the wild or killed under the 3 strikes rule? It seems that they don’t want to engage in wolf recovery unless sued.

  2. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    What are wolves supposed to do? Order a pizza?

    I love it. We certainly are living in absurd times.

  3. JB Avatar

    “Written comments on the proposed rulechange will be accepted until September 23, 2014.”

    And subsequently ignored, per protocol.

  4. Ken Cole Avatar

    The USFWS is worse now than it was under Bush. The same could be said for all of the other natural resource agencies as well. Obama is a lost cause and it isn’t because of the republicans either. This is his domain and it is his administration who promulgates these regulations.

    1. JB Avatar

      In all fairness, Ken, this has been a long time coming. Recall that Ron Nowak (an FWS zoologist) raised a stink (i.e., resigned in protest) in 1997 claiming “this agency is no longer adequately supporting the function for which I was hired, the classification and protection of wildlife pursuant to the ESA of 1973, and indeed, often is working against this function.”

      That was 1997–during the Clinton years, when they listed more species than at any other time in the history of the Act (1994 was the peak). But it also followed closely on the heels of 1995 when Congress used a rider (Public Law 104-6) to prohibit the Secretary of Interior from using any source of funding for making a species status determination (in other words–listing species). This, of course, was a direct reaction to the SCOPUS’s decision in Sweet Home Chapter v. Babbitt (which pissed of the up-and-coming property rights folks, and doesn’t sit well with today’s tea baggers either).

      And then, of course, there are the budget issues (i.e., continued lack of funding for either NMFS or FWS). I imagine these factors combine to make it feel like a pretty hostile environment for someone who wants to do right by our native flora and fauna?

      In any case, the data suggest that the comparison to Bush II is a bit unfair. Obama (23) has been closer to Reagan (32) and Nixon/Ford (15) in terms of species listed per year than he has to Bush II (8).

      1. Mark L Avatar
        Mark L

        Isn’t ‘species listed per year’ a sad way to measure success though?

        1. JB Avatar

          Agreed. I’m just not sure there’s a better one–especially given how little is actually being done to recover species (which again, is really a funding issue).


          I think folks need to understand that Congress (the House really) holds the purse strings. For tea party types (or really most Rs anymore) pulling the purse strings tighter represents a ‘can’t lose’ scenario. (1) Less money for listing species (which they don’t want), (2) people get pissed and blame the agency which can’t do much without funding, (3) or better yet, the President, (4) the failures ultimately feeds into their ‘government don’t work’ mantra, and (5) environmental groups are forced to sue FWS/NMFS to list species, which, again, only serves to fuel their argument that the ESA (and government in general) are broken.

          It’s really pretty simple. If you want listing to lead to recovery, you have to fund the agencies put in charge of these tasks.

        2. timz Avatar

          Yes but we all know JB can’t wait to make excuses for the God he worships in the White House, despite the fact he’ll go down in history as one of America’s worse presidents.

    2. Yvette Avatar

      “The USFWS is worse now than it was under Bush. The same could be said for all of the other natural resource agencies as well. Obama is a lost cause and it isn’t because of the republicans either. This is his domain and it is his administration who promulgates these regulations.”

      Ba-da-Bing. Obama’s performance on environmental and conservation has been abysmal. I voted for him–twice. The first time was exciting because it was the first time in my life I cast a vote for someone I truly liked and believed in, but that was short lived. He began losing me as I watched his handling of the horrific BP disaster in the gulf. The second time I voted for him was only because I could not stomach the other guy. He may not be 100% responsible, but he and his agency heads have done a piss poor job.

      My tolerance level for any politician has always been low, but it is now at an all time low.

    3. Amre Avatar

      Well, congress is also to blame. All of the natural recourse agencies have pretty tight budgets right now, and it seems congress won’t do anything about it anytime soon. Of course, this does NOT excuse the actions (or lack of actions) of the agencies and the administration.

      And let’s not forget, democrats in congress seem to be joining republicans lately in the war on the environment.

      The administration and the agencies are guilty of ignoring public opinion on many of their wildlife/environment decisions.

      So really, the administration, the agencies, and congress need to get their act together.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        What I’m dismayed at is the Democrats are making ‘trade-offs’ that shouldn’t be made for votes and to maintain their political power. If nobody is perceived to care about the environment and wildlife or complains like they do about the economy, jobs, immigration, health care, birth control and abortion and who’s paying for it, butting into another country’s bizness wars, the latest smokescreen scandal du jour. etc., it would seem that the Democrats are all to happy to abandon these issues. They need to be held accountable.

        1. Louise Kane Avatar

          whats the alternative that is what is so troubling….

    4. Louise Kane Avatar

      +1 but I think that the categorization as Obama as a lost cause has come about less from determined policy positions (and especially so for environmental issues) but more from an ignorance, lack of interest and absurd politicking/selling out to accomodate a manipulative, obstructive, right-wing tea party and GOP, in full tantrum mode. What could have been a very progressive presidency instead feels regressive, stagnant and reactive. Its been hard to watch this presidency squander and compromise opportunities they might have had with a Senate majority.

      1. timz Avatar

        Blaming Republicans/tea party for Obamas failures is becoming tiresome. The man is an incompetent fool. And last I checked he has a senate majority, many of whom voted for a budget bill that contained s provision to allow the unfettered killing of wolves which Obama promptly signed.

        1. Louise Kane Avatar
          Louise Kane

          I don’t like many of this administration’s policies and hate that the democrats lost this opportunity follow a truly progressive platform/agenda but incompetent fool applied to a Columbia and harvard grad (also on law review) who became the first African American president running against a popular conservative, as a junior senator with a convention speech as his big claim to fame may be a little harsh? granted there were other forces at play but I don’t think he is an incompetent fool, maybe not as experienced as he might have been politically, not having a firm policy and completely unaware and uneducated about environmental issues. his background was as a community organizer in an urban setting so this would make sense to me. i don’t like it but it makes sense.

          Predator Defense just posted this on the WCCL. This is relevant to the discussion as it pertains to wolves and their delisting and the politics behind it.

          The Perils of Ignoring (or Misunderstanding) Politics and Organizing David Johns*
          Abstract: Conservation scientists and advocates were surprised by the U.S. Congress stripping away protection for wolves in the US northern Rocky Mountains. If they had paid attention to earlier political lessons in which court victories had been undermined by determined political organizing they would not have been surprised and could have adopted strategies that would have given them much more leverage with elected officials. Instead conservationists were out-organized and elected officials normally supportive of the U.S. Endangered Species Act responded to anti-wolf groups because they brought more pressure to bear than conservationists. Although political lessons are specific to the system in which decisions are made, they can also be generalized: political influence is exercised not just formally but informally through mobilization of economic leverage, organized mass action, framing of issues and other means, by which decision makers are rewarded and punished. The full political landscape must be the theater action, not just a part of it.

        2. JB Avatar

          “Blaming Republicans/tea party for Obamas failures is becoming tiresome.”

          H.R. 4315: 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act – Which would partially-gut the ESA.

          This bill passed the House with 96% support from Republicans, 7% from Democrats. It won’t make it past the democratically-controlled Senate–though the Senate could flip this fall and you can bet if it does, a bill will come through to Obama. How about we have a little bet, Timz? If Obama gets this type of Bill (anything from a R controlled House and Senate to reform the ESA) I’ll bet you it gets vetoed?

          Now, do you think a Republican president would veto such legislation? No. Nobody does.

          Last time I checked, the extremely anti-environment, Republican-controlled House holds the purse strings. And the mantra of Republicans is ‘government can only fail’ (unless it’s the military, they’re sacrosanct). So all NR agencies have been bled and they will continue to be bled.

          The League of Conservation Voters 2012 report summarizes the problem nicely. It rates all members of Congress based upon their votes for conservation-related legislation (0 being the worst, 100 the best). The average score for House committee chairs–all Republican–is 6/100; the average score for ranking members (Democrats) is 86/100.

          Obama has had a mixed record on the environment, where he’s spend most of his time focused on energy and climate issues (here’s a pretty good summary: He recently even said he will go around Congress to tackle climate change.

          He’s been largely out-to-lunch on Natural Resources issues, however–and that’s most of what gets discussed here.

          1. Amre Avatar

            Really, i doubt obama himself looked at the wolf delisting proposal.

          2. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
            Mareks Vilkins

            Now, do you think a Republican president would veto such legislation? No. Nobody does.

            maybe Mr.Nixon-reincarnated?

            1. JB Avatar


              It would be hard for any president to veto legislation coming from a Congress when both houses are controlled by his/her political party. During Nixon’s time, old-school conservatives were very much pro-conservation. The ESA passed the House on a 355-4 vote, and passed the Senate without opposition. Such bipartisanship is unheard of these days (outside of military ‘adventures’).

        3. WM Avatar


          While you are thinking about fools, consider the possibility that the Senate will move further to the right this next election, as JB suggests.

          Obama has had the most fractious Congress to deal with of any President in decades. So, you want him to move further to the left, and the Senate to move further to the left, with a very likely reaction from the center and the right? Everything for you revolve around wolves, does it, to the exclusion of other matters of a leader running a country with a slowly recovering economy, an immigration system that is out of whack and where parts of the world are politically and economically unstable..and all during a mid-term election year where the balance of power might tip?

          1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
            Mareks Vilkins


            that would be a reference to Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria,Gaza,China, Venezuela, Cuba, Somalia etc?

            1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
              Mareks Vilkins

              I mean “and where parts of the world are politically and economically unstable”

          2. Yvette Avatar

            +1, WM and JB. As much as I loath most politicians, and as little as I trust our governmental system (hey, I’m Indian and we’ve never had much faith or trust in it) I still vote. I vote in the local elections and the national ones. In Oklahoma, the people I vote for rarely win. We were the only state in America where every county went red with the last two Presidential elections. Every county. Inhofe gets elected time and time again. Those records are discouraging and left me with little faith. At least we have someone good running against him this time. I’d sure like to see Inhofe out…finally.

            I’m not sure Sally Jewell was a good choice to head the DOI. Lisa Jackson as head of EPA did a good job, I think. Al Amendariz, EPA Region 6 Administrator was my favorite, but he resigned over ‘controversial’ statements. And on and on it goes.

            With politics and stinking politicians I think there is far more grandstanding and time wasted than actual work that gets solid and tangible results. Wildlife and conservation almost always lose unless the politicians deem a way to make them marketable.

          3. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue

            As Save Bears use to say, those of us who follow the wolf issues are a microcosm of the populace. Unfortunately, As much as we are interested in wolves, they are small potatoes compared to the issues inherited by Obama. Remember also that the delisting rider was attached last second to must pass legislation.

          4. WM Avatar

            Another data point for possible shift to the right in the Senate. This morning’s Seattle Times article announcing MT (D) Senator John Walsh will not continue his run for election, just 3 months away, giving the R’s a chance to pick up another seat (1 of 6 they need).


            Mark Udall is at risk in CO, too.

  5. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    The ESA is powerful in that it allows a species to be reintroduced or protects a species and its habitat that currently exists. Once the species is de-listed, what will ultimately determine the species fate is how the local community and state agencies will respond and that determination is often based on what benefits the species provides to them. There has been a cost associated with the return of wolves in the Rockies to state agencies and some ranchers and there has been an influx of revenue from increased tourism. Without that economic benefit and pro-wolf public input, there is little doubt there would be even a lower wolf population today in the Rockies.

    Politicians will come and go, but for the Mexican wolves, their fate ultimately relies in the hands of the people where the wolves live (ie. ranchers, farmers, hunters etc.) and the state agencies that manage them. Compensating ranchers for livestock losses, providing incentives for proper husbandry practices and providing dedicated public funding (ie. Montana wolf stamp) for wolf conservation will be keys to their recovery.

    1. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      Gary Humbard says,
      “their fate ultimately relies in the hands of the people where the wolves live (ie. ranchers, farmers, hunters etc.) and the state agencies that manage them.”

      Are you saying only ranchers farmers and hunters should have a say because they are ‘closest’ to the wolves? Let’s not forget the ‘local community’ as a whole.
      “And the state agencies that manage them”
      Are you saying no other entity is qualified? Or that no other entity is entitled?

      Lets also remember that the Mexican wolf was a wide ranging animal, all the way to central Texas, historically. Your attempt to ‘monetize’ them isn’t the final comment, it’s just an attempt to draw attention from other points of view.

  6. aves Avatar

    Certainly the USFWS could do a better job conserving endangered species if they had more funding. More funding would indicate more clout for the agency, less political interference and more support from elected officials and the public.

    But a lack of funding doesn’t excuse the almost constant capitulation to politicians and special interest groups that has plagued the Obama administration. A president who gave a damn, or appointed people to the USFWS who did, would not be putting forth the litany of proposals that have compromised endangered species protection at almost every turn. To fight and lose is one thing; to not fight at all is pathetic.

    After all of the political malfeasance of Bush/Cheney, Obama promised that his climate and wildlife policies would be based on science instead of politics. But little has changed from the previous administration. A The recent reveral on listing wolverines by a political appointee is a prime example, though USFWS Director Dan Ashe has a few days left to get it right.

    If this is what they’re proposing to do to the Mexican wolf, then we can all guess what they’re going to do to the red wolf program when it’s 2 month review is over.


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