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Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the Nation's leading legal centers fighting to ensure that the federal government remains a limited government and a government of laws and not men and women. MSLF recognizes that the Constitution was written, not to protect the various units or levels of government, but to preserve the liberty of the American people. MSLF is committed to ensuring that they continue to have that freedom and opportunity.

New Mexico Department of Game & Fish v. U.S. Department of the Interior

Why We Fight:

The federal government must comply with its own regulations and state law when it proposes to release transplanted species into a state.

Summary:

In violation of both state and federal law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released Mexican wolves into the wild in New Mexico without a permit.

Legal Question:

Whether the States, which traditionally have the authority to manage wildlife within their borders, have any ability to regulate the release of an apex predator by a federal agency within their jurisdiction?

Plaintiff:

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

Defendant:

U.S. Department of the Interior; Sally Jewell, in her official capacity as Secretary of The United States Department Of The Interior; United States Fish And Wildlife Service; Daniel M. Ashe, in his official capacity as Director Of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service; Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle, in his official capacity as Southwest Regional Director For the United States Fish & Wildlife Service

Amicus Curiae:

Spur Ranch Cattle Co. LLC and Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), represented by MSLF

Court:

 U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
Proceedings before the New Mexico federal district court

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.

No Status Updates
  • New Mexico Ranch Disappointed with Mexico Wolf Plan Loss at Federal Appeals Court

    Apr 24, 2017
    A western nonprofit legal foundation with decades of experience litigating on behalf of westerners against abuses of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) today expressed its disappointment with the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversing the ruling of a New Mexico federal district court in favor of the State of New Mexico for the refusal of federal officials to comply with State Law regarding the Mexican wolf.
  • New Mexico Ranch Fights Illegal Mexico Wolf Plan at Federal Appeals Court

    Nov 4, 2016
    A western nonprofit legal foundation with decades of experience litigating on behalf of westerners against abuses of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) today filed a friend of the court brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on behalf of its members and a New Mexico ranch in support of efforts by the State of New Mexico to sustain its victory over federal officials for their refusal to comply with State law regarding the Mexican wolf.

Court Filings



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