Federal Court Grants Injunction to Reintroduce Endangered Wildlife

SILVER CITY — A federal district court in New Mexico granted a preliminary injunction and a surprise declaratory ruling in a 3-week court case subordinating federal authority to reintroduce endangered wildlife to the authority exercised by states.

Judge William P. Johnson’s ruling banned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from releasing Mexican wolves into New Mexico until it complies with state permitting requirements. The state, under Governor Susana Martinez, has refused to issue a permit to release wolves and sued the federal government when, after years of inaction, it finally began releasing wolves into the wild in April under authority of a January 2015 federal rule.

“This shocking ruling will hopefully not stand on appeal,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We respectfully believe that the court misread the Endangered Species Act’s intent, but unfortunately, while the ruling stands the plight of the Mexican wolf continues to worsen.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is one of four conservation organizations that have filed a motion to intervene in the case.

In addition to blocking the release of additional wolves into the wild, Gov. Martinez’s administration had requested that two captive-born wolf pups who were placed in a wild wolf’s den in April, be removed. Had that occurred, the pups would have had to be hand-reared and would have been ineligible for future release. The court denied that provision in the state of New Mexico’s request.

“We are grateful that the two pups who are now part of the Sheepherders Baseball Park Pack in the Gila National Forest will not be dug out from their den,” said Robinson. “But the broader cruelty to the Mexican wolf population from this ruling still stings.”