In 1976, the Mexican wolf was listed as an endangered subspecies of the North American gray wolf. In 1982, a Mexican wolf recovery plan was established setting a wild population goal of at least 100 wolves after recognizing that, because Arizona and New Mexico are not open and unsettled lands where wolves could roam freely without risk of injury to humans or livestock, complete delisting of the Mexican wolf is impossible. In 1998, the federal government proposed to reintroduce the Mexican wolf to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) of Arizona and New Mexico with a goal of an additional 300 to 325, over the current New Mexico Mexican wolf population of 79.
The federal previously applied for, and been granted, permits to release Mexican wolves in New Mexico pursuant to state law; however, on April 1 and May 6, 2015, the federal officials applied for two separate permits to release a total of 12 Mexican wolves but those permits were denied. New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish denied those requests on the basis that the proposed releases did not correspond to any management plan, and the New Mexico State Game Commission upheld that decision. Subsequently, federal officials notified New Mexico that they no longer intended to comply with State law and released two Mexican wolves in April of 2016. New Mexico filed suit against federal agencies and officials Interior and moved for a preliminary injunction, which was granted by the New Mexico federal district court on June 10, 2016.
On November 4, 2016, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief for its client and its members. MSLF represents Spur Ranch—owned by the Tom Paterson family and located on the Arizona-New Mexico border, which has suffered great wolf depredation among its 500 head of cows and their calves that it runs on 125,000 acres of federal grazing leases. So significant have been the losses to the Spur Ranch that Mr. Paterson testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources on September 21, 2016. Of the $122,452 in losses caused by wolves in the past year, Spur Ranch has received depredation compensation of only $5,870—resulting in a net loss of $116,582. In its brief, MSLF urged the three-judge panel to uphold the preliminary injunction granted against the federal government. Oral argument was held on January 18, 2017. On April 24, 2017, the Tenth Circuit reversed the lower court’s ruling holding that the New Mexico federal district court abused its discretion in granting an injunction without proof of irreparable harm suffered by New Mexico.