On June 10, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to abstain from further releases of Mexican wolves anywhere in the State of New Mexico until it obtains the necessary permits from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
In publishing the latest new regulation expanding its non-essential, experimental Mexican wolf introduction program in Arizona and New Mexico, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) attempted to make it sound as if the new Mexican Wolf 10(j) rule was developed from the bottom up with the cooperation, consensus and consent of State and local governments. For example, in Federal Register Volume 80 at 2529 the agency states,
In this final rule, … the Service or designated agency may develop and implement management actions to benefit Mexican wolf recovery in cooperation with willing private landowners, and with the concurrence of the State game and fish agency.
The important language to notice in that claim is the singular form of “agency,” when in fact two state game and fish agencies–Arizona’s and New Mexico’s– are directly impacted, and two more–Utah’s and Colorado’s– are impacted by Mexican wolves dispersing outside the program’s boundaries. During the rulemaking process, the FWS consistently ignored local and state concerns, most egregiously those of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Ultimately, numerous towns, counties and tribes passed resolutions opposing Mexican wolf introductions within their jurisdictions based on the intolerable economic impacts, reductions of tax base and threats to citizen health, safety and general welfare that are imposed by the federal 10(j ) non-essential, experimental Mexican wolf reintroduction program.
The federal agency’s “cooperation” narrative was again proven hollow when the agency responded to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish decision to deny the FWS necessary wolf introduction permits. The FWS lawlessly introduced new wolves anyway, claiming “federal supremacy” over all state and local laws. The State of New Mexico sued in the United States District Court in New Mexico and won a temporary injunction against new wolf introductions in New Mexico.
The Court found that under the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of the Interior may reintroduce a nonessential, experimental population of Mexican wolves but is not required to do so. Therefore, New Mexico’s refusal to issue a necessary permit does not prevent the Secretary of the Interior from carrying out her duties. Moreover, the FWS is constrained by federal law to comply with State of New Mexico permitting requirements. The Court found,
- That Defendants have violated State law by failing to obtain the requisite importation and release permits from the Department prior to importing and releasing Mexican wolves into the State;
- That Defendants cannot import or release any Mexican wolves into the State without first obtaining the requisite importation and release permits from the Department;
- That Defendants have violated State law by importing and releasing Mexican wolf offspring in violation of prior Department permits;
- That Defendants cannot import and release any Mexican wolf offspring in violation of prior Department permits;
- That Defendants have violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to comply with State permit requirements.
The Court found the State of New Mexico is “entitled to a preliminary injunction in which the US Fish and Wildlife Service is enjoined from important or releasing any Mexican wolves into the State without first obtaining the requisite importation and release permits from the Department, and are enjoined from importing and releasing any Mexican wolf offspring in violation of prior Department permits.”