PHOENIX — An Arizona judge has approved a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office against the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to develop a new recovery plan for the endangered Mexican wolf.
Under the terms of the settlement, approved last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is mandated to update a decades-old recovery plan by Nov. 30, 2017.
The current recovery plan, developed in 1982, fails to provide for several key legal requirements, such as identifying criteria that are required to downlist and delist this subspecies of wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Additionally under the terms of the settlement, the federal agency also must provide the court and other litigants in the case with regular status updates on the planning process, and must complete an independent peer review of the draft plan, through which it will solicit and consider all available scientific information from appropriate state agencies and other entities, including the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
The state of Arizona, on behalf of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, filed the lawsuit in June 2015.
“Arizona Game and Fish has long been committed to Mexican wolf recovery in balance with other wildlife and the people who live or recreate on the land where wolves are found, and we are pleased with the court’s approval of the settlement” said AZGFD Director Larry Voyles. “We’d reached a point where, without a current recovery plan to provide a framework by which to operate and objective science-based goals to target, the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project would continue to be faced with unwarranted litigation with little regard for how biologically successful our efforts become.”
Game and Fish maintains that to measure success of the recovery program, an updated recovery plan must include an integrated, bi-national approach that incorporates the recovery work already being done in Mexico.
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