Ranches Contest Government’s Decision to Release Problem Wolves Nearby

In a District of New Mexico complaint filed on Thursday, three ranches and county commissioners alleged that the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of the Interior, its Fish and Wildlife Service, and associated individuals, recklessly released dangerous wolves into Sierra County, New Mexico when they should have known it would cause problems to the filing parties. 

The petitioners, including Hillsboro Pitchfork Ranch L.L.C., the Salopek Ranch, the High Seven Ranch, William Lindsey, and County Commissioners of the County of Sierra, asked the court to review the government’s action. The ranches claimed that the authorization for the “2021 release and translocation of ‘known problem’ Mexican wolves” in the county without analysis or notice to the public breached the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.  

According to the complaint, the “problem wolves” a male and a female, were released on private property only five miles from the closest ranch.  The wolves are considered problems because they have had “documented and confirmed livestock depredations” in neighboring counties. The male wolf also had a documented “adverse human interaction.” 

The petitioners alleged that the Department of the Interior violated federal requirements, including providing notice to landowners within 10 miles.  Reportedly, a form letter was emailed in May, but it did not include notification that the male wolf had threatened a human or that the wolves were considered problem wolves. The petitioners claimed the notification was “wholly inadequate” and that the request for comment in the letter also violated laws because it was not in the Federal Register or on any publicly available source. Additionally, at least one landowner did not receive that notification. 

The filing explained that the Mexican wolf was listed as an endangered species in 1976 and was later combined in a group on the list with the entire gray wolf species. The Fish and Wildlife Service has been involved in recovery programs for the wolves. The service further designates problem wolves which can be removed from a wild population. 

The petitioners asked the court to declare that the respondents violated federal laws, vacate the relocation of the problem wolves, and enjoin the respondents from releasing the wolves into Sierra County until the required analysis and public comment periods occur. 

The ranches and the county commission are represented by Budd-Falen Law Offices LLC and Nance, Pato and Stout LLC.