Recovery Ought to Mean More Lobos in More Places

by Greta Anderson and Sandy Bahr

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has just released a recovery plan for the lobo that will remove federal Endangered Species Act protections long before a stable, functional, and recovered population is achieved. The draft criteria for down-listing or delisting Mexican wolves in this new document is woefully short of scientific recommendations and hands far too much control to the same states that are already actively thwarting wolf recovery.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service well knows what is needed for lobo recovery because some of North America’s most respected wolf biologists already told them: at least 750 wolves in three separate but connected populations ranging from Mexico into Utah and Colorado. Instead, the draft plan maintains a northern boundary at Interstate 40, removing important and appropriate habitat, including the wild country of the Grand Canyon, from the potential range of the lobos. The draft plan set goals for only two populations and envisions weakening protections when the average populations in the U.S. and Mexico are greater than or equal to 150 wolves over four consecutive years. The lobo will be delisted entirely when the population hits 320 wolves in the U.S. and 170 wolves in Mexico over eight consecutive years. This sets the bar about 30 percent lower than the lowest level that the experts recommend. This is not recovery.

Where is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service getting its numbers, since it’s ignoring the nation’s top wolf scientists? From the states, including Utah, which has vehemently opposed lobos coming anywhere near the North Rim of Grand Canyon, and New Mexico and Arizona whose game commissions have actively sought to suppress necessary lobo releases. In addition to capping the populations at the states’ tolerance instead of the lobo’s needs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan states, “[T]he states of New Mexico and Arizona… will determine the timing, location and circumstance of releases of wolves into the wild within their respective states.” This is apparently the agenda of the current administration: transfer as much to the states as they want and pretend that the feds are still in control.

The last time the states had this much control over the lobos under the auspices of the Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC), the population of wild lobos plummeted to 42 animals. New Mexico has been trying for years to prevent new introductions that would improve the genetic diversity of the wolves. With this in mind, does anyone believe we’ll hit recovery targets before the species blinks out completely?

The draft plan replaces a recovery plan that was written in 1982. An updated plan is absolutely necessary, but this draft squanders the opportunity to develop a solid path toward full recovery and restoration in the Southwest. There’s still time for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fix the plan before it becomes final, but salvaging this debacle will take many voices demanding a workable, science-based plan. It is up to us to speak for the lobos as the agency charged with their recovery is clearly not heeding their howls.

Public meetings and a comment period on the proposed plan span the summer, giving Americans one last chance to have their voices heard. Learn more at


Greta Anderson is the deputy director of Western Watersheds Project.

Sandy Bahr is the chapter director of the Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter.


  1. Bob Brister Avatar
    Bob Brister

    Great summation what is wrong with the extinction plan masquerading as a recovery plan. Make your voice heard for wolves at the public meeting and commenting on the plan. We need Mexican wolves in Utah, Colorado, and west Texas.

  2. Judy Ramirez Avatar
    Judy Ramirez

    Please Help these beautiful Animals..who we have been fortunate to have in Our environment. .

  3. Henin Avatar

    I think the same wolfs are needed

  4. Jessica Avatar

    Stop killing our beautiful wolves,this is wrong,stop hurting our wildlife protect them :”””(

  5. Jane Alexander Avatar
    Jane Alexander

    No wolves! No plants! Save wolves please!

  6. Laura Avatar

    You have no right to murder these beautiful animals. They are just trying to live. Please just stop what you are doing and let them live in peace.

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