A revised recovery program may be the Mexican wolf's last best chance to regain a foothold in its historic range in Arizona and New Mexico. But conflict and controversy will continue to define any effort to restore wolves into areas now dominated by ranching. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The federal Mexican wolf reintroduction program, 12 years old this year, is going through the usual growing pains of adolescence. According to its architects, the program has learned from its mistakes and is now ready to mature into a successful effort that will establish a viable, self-sustaining population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
But few endangered species recovery programs have encountered such vehement resistance, and the program's ultimate success may rest with how well the Fish and Wildlife Service can appease local communities that contend with the sometimes harsh realities of living amid wolves.
The one thing most observers of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program agree on is that the time is ripe for a major overhaul.
Several recent developments suggest the program is about to undergo a significant transformation.
For instance, FWS last year abolished its controversial "three strikes" rule, which directed FWS to remove wolves that preyed on livestock three times in a year. Now the agency has more discretion in deciding whether to remove a wolf from the wild.