Nov. 24–Rockies WolvesThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday it has finished an environmental review that will underpin a new rule governing management of the endangered Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest.
The final environmental impact statement outlines proposed alternatives for managing the species in its recovery habitat in New Mexico and Arizona, including expanding the area where wolves can be released, clarifying when wolves may be taken when they attack livestock and setting a population objective of between 300 and 325 animals.
The agency has been managing the Mexican wolf population under a rule in effect since 1998 and is required by a legal settlement to implement a new rule by Jan. 12, 2015. A draft of the new rule is scheduled to be published on Tuesday.
The FWS said in a statement that the proposed changes “will allow greater flexibility to conserve one of the nation’s rarest mammals and greater responsiveness to the needs of local communities in cases of problem wolf behavior.”
“Over the last 16 years, we have learned much about managing a wild population of Mexican wolves, and it is clear that the current rule does not provide the clarity or the flexibility needed to effectively manage the experimental population in a working landscape,” said Sherry Barrett, FWS Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, in a statement.
Eva Sargent of Defenders of Wildlife criticized the environmental impact statement, saying “it helps the current population but makes it impossible to reach recovery.”
There are currently about 83 wolves in the wild roaming the Gila and Apache national forests in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, respectively.