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Arizona Game and Fish Commission votes to take legal action to support federal officials’ new 10(j) rule for Mexican wolves

Posted in: News Media
Feb 18, 2015
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Groups critical of rule lack on-the-ground field perspective of what changes will lead to success
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted recently to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups earlier this year against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The lawsuit is over the Service’s recently-revised 10(j) rule that governs the management of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.

“The Game and Fish commission took this action to defend the Service’s new 10(j) rule for Mexican wolves. The rule relies on sound scientific principles and helps address critical stakeholder concerns that have long challenged the Mexican wolf reintroduction effort,” said Commission Chair Robert Mansell. “It’s important that this action is not confused with the department’s recent action meant to encourage the Service’s development of a new recovery plan. The 10(j) rule and the recovery plan are designed to address very different aspects of Mexican wolf recovery.”

The regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act require the Service to work with a state’s wildlife agency to develop an acceptable rule revision. The negotiations that took place between the Service and the Game and Fish sought to balance the needs and interests of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project, local stakeholders and all other wildlife species held in trust by the department. The department provided its points of concern with possible resolutions to the Service in December 2013, allowing the Service sufficient time to incorporate the changes into the preferred alternative before issuing the draft Environmental Impact Statement. The lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity last month considers the Service’s cooperation with Arizona Game and Fish Department a violation of federal law.

“The department is committed to reestablishing wolves in Arizona and the new 10(j) rule will help us do that through the use of valid science, accurate historical perspective and consideration for the changes to the modern landscape that make it impractical to recreate a wolf population as it was a century ago,” said Jim deVos, assistant director for wildlife management at the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The new 10(j) rule lays out some of the steps guide Mexican wolf conservation on the ground, while the recovery plan provides a broader approach to guide the program to a defined recovery goal. The department notified the Service that it intends to take legal action to try to push the development of a recovery plan for Mexican wolves as the current plan is more than 30 years old and so outdated that it fails to provide a necessary framework for the program.  
One of the points criticized in the new 10(j) rule concerns expansion of the Mexican wolf population. The department used extensive biological studies to guide the recommendation for westward expansion of wolves in Arizona. Studies clearly indicate a relatively sparse ungulate population in western Arizona that is inadequate for supporting wolves. To allow wolves in the initial phase of expansion to disperse and occupy areas with limited prey is likely to lead to more conflicts between wolves and humans and domestic animals. The department recommended against initial expansion into these areas to avoid conflict that may necessitate the removal of wolves.
Critics of the new 10(j) rule also disagree with the population objective defined in the new rule. The population objective for Arizona is only a part of Mexican wolf recovery. Arizona is an important component of Mexican wolf recovery, but full recovery must incorporate Mexico as well. Historically, Mexico held 90 percent of the habitat for Mexican wolves and it still contains significant areas that could support wolves. True recovery can only occur if both Mexico and Arizona have viable, sustainable wolf populations. The new rule will allow wolves a corridor to disperse into Mexico. Interconnection between wolves in Mexico and those in the Arizona-New Mexico population will increase genetic diversity.
For more information on Mexican wolves, visit

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