LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CN) - One day after federal officials confirmed that the first gray wolf to visit the Grand Canyon in 70 years had been shot to death, ranchers and cattlemen sued the United States for the right to kill more of them.
The Arizona and New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Economic Growth and 17 other plaintiffs sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Feb. 12 in Federal Court.
"Echo" the gray wolf was named in December 2014 in a worldwide contest among schoolchildren after the 3-year-old female was spotted on the North Rim - the first such spotting since the 1940s. She had been radio-collared a year ago in Cody, Wyo., "and had traveled at least 750 miles seeking a mate across a vast region that is entirely bereft of wolves," the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement last week. A hunter apparently thought the wolf was a coyote. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed the wolf's identity through DNA tests on Feb. 11.
The next day, the ranchers, cattlemen and public irrigation districts sued Uncle Sam, challenging a January 2015 revision of the Endangered Species Act that expands the area in which gray wolves can be released from captivity and triples the population goal of gray wolves in the area. The changes also limit the circumstances under which a livestock owner will be issued a "take" - or kill - permit, and require an attempt to remove wolves from an area before killing them.
The ranchers claim that wolves are a threat to livestock, and that expanding their range will threaten development plans and hinder soil and water conservation. They claim the new rules are inconsistent with previous policies, and violate Fish and Wildlife's own regulations.
The ranchers claim that as many as 45 cattle are killed for every 100 wolves in the wild. The gray wolf therefore is an unacceptable threat to cattle and to the livelihood of ranchers, the plaintiffs say.
They want the new rules set aside as violations of the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and costs.
They are represented by Andrea Buzzard and Karen Budd-Falen with the Budd-Falen Law Offices of Cheyenne, Wyo.
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