Friday, January 27, 2017

Court hearing held about wolf release program in NM

A battle over how to save endangered wolves in the Southwest moved to a federal appeals court last week as judges heard arguments on whether states can block the federal government from reintroducing wildlife within their borders. The Interior Department is asking the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a preliminary injunction that bars the department from releasing more captive-bred Mexican gray wolves into the wild in New Mexico without that state’s approval. It’s the latest skirmish in the federal government’s long and troubled effort to restore the rare wolves to part of their original range under the Endangered Species Act. It comes as the future of the law is in question, with Congress and the White House in the control of Republicans who generally see it as an impediment to jobs and economic development. New Mexico has multiple complaints about the Mexican gray wolf program, and in 2015 it refused to issue a permit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — part of the Interior Department — to release more of the predators in the state. New Mexico also announced it might sue the agency. The Socorro County Board of Commissioners also passed an ordinance last year forbidding the release of wolves and other predators within the county. Fish and Wildlife decided to release more wolves anyway, citing an urgent need to expand the wild population to prevent inbreeding. New Mexico officials went to court, and a federal judge in New Mexico issued an order last year blocking further releases while the dispute is resolved. The Interior Department appealed to the 10th Circuit. Appeals court judges generally take weeks or months to issue a ruling after hearing oral arguments. Even if the court sides with the government, it’s not clear whether president-elect Donald Trump’s administration will continue to fight after he takes office. U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce, who represents Socorro and Catron counties where the wolves could be released, has sided with the state and local governments on the issue...more

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