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Wolf Plan May Prompt Suit

Catron County's wolf killing ordinance is unlawful and would further set back wolf recovery

Las Cruces - Catron County threw down the gauntlet last month with an ordinance the officials said allows a county agent to kill endangered Mexican gray wolves, and environmental groups responded Monday.

Four environmental organizations sent Catron County a formal notice of their intent to sue in federal court under the Endangered Species Act to prevent the ordinance from being carried out.

"Catron County's ordinance is unlawful and would further set back wolf recovery," said Melissa Hailey, staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians. Only federal authorities and their designated partners have authority to manage the endangered wolf population, Hailey said.

Joining the WildEarth Guardians in sending the notice to Catron County were the Center for Biological Diversity, the Rewilding Institute and Boulder, Colo.-based Sinapu.

Catron County commissioners in February passed an ordinance that allows a designated county agent to trap or kill wolves considered accustomed to human beings "whether or not they have threatened persons."

Commissioners said they adopted the ordinance because of a growing number of encounters between wolves and humans, rising public anxiety and frustration with federal management of the endangered wolf population.

Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced to federal lands in a recovery area spanning southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico starting in 1998. Today, about 58 gray wolves are roaming the recovery area.

Catron County attorney Ron Shortes did not respond Monday to a request for comment to the challenge to the county ordinance. County Commission Chairman Ed Wehrheim could not be reached for comment.

County officials sent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a letter March 7 saying they hoped to work with the agency, through the county ordinance, to remove wolves accustomed to humans. The agency was formulating a response, said John Morgart, director of the wolf recovery program.

Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal - Reprinted with permission


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