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Court Finds Catron County Anti-Wolf Ordinance Obsolete

October 1, 2008
WildEarth Guardians
In This Release
#DefendCarnivores, #EndTheWarOnWildlife

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Court Finds Catron County Anti-Wolf Ordinance Obsolete

Legal Fight Continues as WildEarth Guardians Breathes Sigh of Relief for Mexican Wolves
Contact: WildEarth Guardians

SANTA FE, N.M. – This week, a Federal Judge in New Mexico clarified that Catron County law no longer authorizes the county to trap and kill wolves at its discretion. Through an ongoing lawsuit filed in 2007, the non-profit conservation group WildEarth Guardians challenged Catron County Ordinance No. 001-2007 along with county efforts to trap and remove endangered Mexican gray wolves from their own recovery area. WildEarth Guardians asked the Court to strike down the ordinance as contrary to federal law and to permanently enjoin the Commission from trying to trap wolves in the future.

In early 2007, the Catron County Commission authorized itself to trap and/or kill endangered Mexican gray wolves–exclusive of federal approval. After receiving notice of the group’s intent to sue in April 2007, Catron County amended its ordinance with provisions that did not authorize unilateral wolf removals. Even so, the Commission later targeted the alpha pair of the Mexican wolf Durango Pack for trapping, and WildEarth Guardians moved forward with its litigation.

Finding that the county had “substantially amended the Ordinance by removing the provisions that previously authorized and directed the [Commission] to take unilateral action against wolves,” the Court ruled yesterday that all sections of the ordinance challenged by WildEarth Guardians are now obsolete. Only Catron County Amended Ordinance 001-2007 still remains on the books, meaning that any authority claimed by the county to trap wolves is now history.

“We are certainly pleased with the Court’s ruling thus far,” says Melissa Hailey, staff attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “What the Court did was provide much-needed clarity that the current law in Catron County does not authorize unilateral wolf removals.”

But the legal battle for Mexican wolves is not over yet. Still before the Court is WildEarth Guardians’ claim that the County Commission twice violated the Endangered Species Act when it attempted to trap the Mexican wolf Durango Pack alpha pair in June and November of 2007. The group had asked for both a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the county’s trapping activities.

Because the Durango alpha male has since mysteriously disappeared, the Court denied WildEarth Guardians’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the county from removing him. The Court will decide at a later time whether to grant WildEarth Guardians a permanent injunction to cease illegal trapping in the county for good.

“We remain committed to keeping Mexican wolves in the wild,” said Rob Edward, Carnivore Recovery Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Each and every Mexican wolf is essential to the survival of this critically endangered population.”

WildEarth Guardians’ challenge of Catron County’s ordinance and trapping activities represents part of a larger legal policy strategy to protect the struggling population of Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, and to ensure their successful recovery.

For more information and background materials on this week’s court ruling, see below:

View memorandum.

View ordinance.

View amended ordinance.