The Lobo Limps on from Limbo: A History, Summary, and Outlook for Mexican Wolf Recovery in the American Southwest

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2018



The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ("NMDGF" or "Department"), acting pursuant to new administrative regulations, denied a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS") application to import and release Mexican wolves - lobos - into New Mexico in November 2015. The FWS, acting pursuant to its own regulations, decided to proceed with Mexican wolf reintroduction. Acting without a state permit, FWS released two Mexican gray wolf pups at a location on federal land in New Mexico in early 2016. The NMDGF brought suit to challenge FWS '5 actions. In NMDGF v. U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico issued a preliminary injunction that halted FWS recovery actions until state permits were issued. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit then reversed the district court and allowed the FWS to continue with Mexican wolf recovery efforts. This is the most recent litigation dealing with Mexican wolf recovery (a controversial topic that has given rise to much litigation). This Article will provide a historical overview of the conflict by examining the early litigation opposing recovery, including cases involving livestock depredation and wolf trapping in wolf recovery areas. It will then trace the development of 2015 regulations that changed the status of the Mexican wolf and modified its management. Next, the Article examines the current conflict over the development of the Mexican wolf recovery plan, including an analysis of the Tenth Circuit's decision in NMDGF v. U.S. Department of the Interior. It then reviews recent congressional efforts to halt Mexican wolf recovery. Finally, it will analyze the 2017 Mexican wolf recovery plan and describe and analyze the resulting litigation.

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