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Conservation groups sue US Fish and Wildlife over Mexican gray wolf recovery

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Arizona Game and Fish Department
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The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a newly finalized rule in its Mexican gray wolf management. They say new parts of the recovery plan for the endangered animals fail to protect the species in the Southwest.

A coalition of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit against the federal government over Mexican gray wolf management. They say new parts of the recovery plan for the endangered animals fail to protect the species in the Southwest.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court. They allege a rule recently finalized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t boost the genetic diversity of Mexican wolves. They also say it doesn’t allow the species to expand further into prime Southwestern habitat like the Grand Canyon area. Mexican wolves are currently barred from roaming north of Interstate 40 and conservationists want more populations of the species throughout the region.

"We now have an opportunity to not have the Mexican wolf be something in the history books but have it be something we can live with and a living, breathing part of our wild landscape," says Tim Preso, managing attorney with the Biodiversity Defense Program at Earthjustice, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the groups. "But we’ve got to do more than we’re doing right now for the Mexican wolves and that’s what this lawsuit is about."

Fish and Wildlife was forced to rewrite the management rule following a 2018 federal court ruling that found it had violated the Endangered Species Act. An agency spokesperson said Fish and Wildlife doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

At last count there were nearly 200 Mexican gray wolves roaming eastern Arizona and New Mexico. While numbers have grown in recent years the animals are plagued by a lack of genetic diversity.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.