Changes to Gray Wolf Program Are Sought
The environmental group officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday, the sixth anniversary of the first release of endangered wolves into the wild of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.
The petition asks the agency to begin releasing wolves directly into the Gila National Forest. The program's current rules require the release of each wolf in Arizona and recapture before release in New Mexico.
It also asks that the wolves be allowed to establish territories outside boundaries of the designated recovery area within the Gila and Apache-SitGreaves national forests.
The final request in the petition is to require ranchers to remove or render unpalatable cattle and horse carcasses to prevent wolves from scavenging on them and getting used to eating livestock.
The Center for Biological Diversity said it will file a lawsuit if the agency fails to make the changes within a year.
"This petition starts the clock ticking to when Fish and Wildlife will have to act," said Michael Robinson, a spokesman for the environmental group. "With the population of radio-collared Mexican wolves in decline, and the entire wild population in trouble, we're letting the feds know that if they don't protect these animals, we'll see them in court."
The three changes requested by the Center for Biological Diversity were recommended in June 2001 by a panel of independent scientists who reviewed the program.
The agency began releasing wolves in March 1998 in an effort to re-establish a wild population of about 100 wolves in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona after the species was hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.2004-03-30 12:30:44 GMT
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