Faced with the alarming news that endangered red wolves have declined under federal wildlife management to just seven individuals in the wild, conservation groups have gone back to federal court for action. Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), groups including the North Carolina-based Red Wolf Coalition are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for its management program’s violations of the Endangered Species Act.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is managing this species for extinction,” said SELC senior attorney Sierra Weaver. “Faced with a wild population of only seven known animals, the Fish and Wildlife Service is now claiming—without basis—that it’s not allowed to take proven, necessary measures to save the wild red wolves. The service urgently needs to restart red wolf releases from captivity, which it did regularly for 27 years. Otherwise we’re going to lose the world’s only wild population of this wolf.”
This court action is a follow-up to the same groups’ previous litigation two years ago, which resulted in a federal court order that USFWS take corrective action. The new lawsuit says that instead of re-instituting proven conservation measures as directed, USFWS took further steps to abandon the wild red wolf population. The groups note that under proven management policies prior to the current administration, the restored population had grown to about 100 wolves in its protected range in North Carolina, and maintained that level for a decade.
USFWS mismanagement of the red wolf restoration effort didn’t begin four years ago. However, it has gotten even worse under a president who has been so actively hostile to wildlife and natural resource protection. The urgent need for new Interior Department leadership is another reason for North Carolinians to be anxious for the presidential transition to take place.