Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wolf News Release: WildEarth Guardians lawsuit setback

Contact: Ron Shortes, Catron County Attorney
Phone 575.533.6265
Email: shortes2@gilanet.com
April 17, 2009

Environmentalist attempt to deny County the right to protect its own citizens stalled

RESERVE, N.M. Catron County, New Mexico has learned that a WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit, which attempts to deny the County the right to protect its own citizens from imminent harm, has been stalled. A US District Court Judge in Santa Fe recently denied a bid by the environmental group for a summary judgment against the County.

WildEarth Guardians, a Santa Fe, NM based environmental group formed through the merger of Forest Guardians, Sinapu, and the Sagebrush Sea Campaign, filed a suit against Catron County last year. The group claimed that a 2007 County ordinance, providing for protection measures for Catron County Citizens in the event of problems with wolves, violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In October of 2008, Judge Martha Vazquez issued a ruling stating that WildEarth Guardians’ claims were moot, as the County had amended the ordinance. Nevertheless, WildEarth Guardians continued to press the lawsuit, claiming that the Catron County Commission allegedly violated the ESA by setting traps for a pair of wolves. However, the Court has now denied a request for summary judgment against the County on this issue.

“It is the responsibility of government to protect its citizens,” said a Catron County spokesman. “We have a problem here with wolves and have had one since the beginning of the program. The incidents have escalated to the point where our people - particularly our children - are at risk.”

Catron County has submitted numerous requests to the Mexican wolf program to include realistic consideration for human safety - something that is currently lacking in the ESA’s 10j Rule regarding reintroduction of Mexican wolves.

“The Mexican wolf program people are well aware of our concerns for the safety of our children,” the County spokesman said. “All WildEarth Guardians is concerned about is wolves - they apparently don’t care if a child is at risk.”

“Our citizens rely on local government to protect them,” the spokesman said. “They demand that of us, and by law we are authorized to protect our citizens. We cannot, legally or morally, allow the threat from habituated wolves to reach the point where our children and families are in imminent danger. That is clear.”

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