[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 125 (Friday, June 30, 2017)]
[Pages 29918-29920]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-13762]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036; FXES11130200000-178-FF02ENEH00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Mexican Wolf Draft 
Recovery Plan, First Revision

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) Draft Recovery 
Plan, First Revision (draft recovery plan). The Mexican wolf is listed 
as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act), and is currently found in Arizona and New Mexico, in the United 
States, and in Chihuahua, Mexico. The draft recovery plan includes 
specific recovery criteria to be met to enable us to remove this 
species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The first 
Mexican wolf recovery plan was completed in 1982. We request review and 
comment on the revised plan from local, State, and Federal agencies; 
Tribes; and the public, in both the United States and Mexico. We will 
also accept any new information on the Mexican wolf's status throughout 
its range to assist in finalizing the recovery plan.

DATES: Comment submission: To ensure consideration, we must receive 
written comments on or before August 29, 2017. However, we will accept 
information about any species at any time.
    Public meetings: We will hold information meetings to provide the 
public with information on the draft recovery plan. Written comments on 
the draft recovery plan may be submitted at these meetings (oral 
comments will not be recorded). The dates and times of these 
information meetings are as follows:
    1. July 18, 2017 (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.): Flagstaff, Arizona.
    2. July 19, 2017 (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.): Pinetop, Arizona.
    3. July 20, 2017 (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.): Truth or Consequences, 
New Mexico.
    4. July 22, 2017 (2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.): Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ADDRESSES: Document availability: If you wish to review the draft 
recovery plan and related documents, you may obtain copies by any of 
the following methods:
    Electronically: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and enter FWS-R2-
    U.S. mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Road NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; or
    Telephone: (505) 346-2525.
    Comment submission: If you wish to comment on the draft recovery 
plan, you may submit your comments in writing by either of the 
following methods:
    Electronically: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and enter FWS-R2-
    Hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments 
Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2017-

[[Page 29919]]

0036, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, 
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    Public meetings: The locations of the information meetings 
discussed above in DATES are as follows:
    1. Flagstaff: Northern Arizona University, Prochnow Auditorium, 
South Knowles Drive, Flagstaff, AZ 86001.
    2. Pinetop: Hon-Dah Resort, Casino Banquet Hall, 777 AZ-260, 
Pinetop, AZ 85935.
    3. Truth or Consequences: Ralph Edwards Auditorium, Civic Center, 
400 West Fourth, Truth or Consequences, NM 87901.
    4. Albuquerque: Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, 1901 University Boulevard 
NE., Albuquerque, NM 87102.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sherry Barrett, Mexican Wolf Recovery 
Coordinator, 505-346-2525.



    A primary goal of our endangered species program and the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) is endangered or threatened animals and plants 
recovering to the point where they are again secure, self-sustaining 
ecosystems members. Recovery means improving listed species' status to 
the point at which listing is no longer appropriate under the criteria 
set out in the Act, section 4(a)(1). The Act requires developing 
recovery plans for listed species, unless such a plan would not promote 
a particular species' conservation.
    The Service has revised its approach to recovery planning; the 
revised process is called Recovery Planning and Implementation (RPI) 
(USFWS 09/21/2016). RPI is intended to reduce the time needed to 
develop and implement recovery plans, increase recovery plan relevancy 
over a longer timeframe, and add flexibility to recovery plans so they 
can be adjusted to new information or circumstances. Under RPI, a 
recovery plan will include statutorily required elements (measurable 
criteria, site-specific management actions, and estimates of time and 
costs), along with a concise introduction and our strategy for how we 
plan to achieve species recovery. The RPI recovery plan is supported by 
a separate Species Status Assessment (SSA), or in some cases, a species 
Biological Report, which provides the background information and threat 
assessment, which are key to recovery plan development. The essential 
component to flexible implementation under RPI is producing a separate 
working document called the Recovery Implementation Strategy 
(implementation strategy). The implementation strategy steps down from 
the more general description of actions described in the recovery plan 
to detail the near-term, specific activities needed to implement the 
recovery plan. The implementation strategy will be adaptable by being 
able to incorporate new information without having to concurrently 
revise the recovery plan, unless changes to statutory elements are 
required. The Mexican wolf implementation strategy document will be 
developed with partners at a later date. The Mexican Wolf Draft 
Recovery Plan, First Revision, represents one of the first products 
developed using RPI.
    In addition to the recovery plan and implementation strategy, we 
have completed a biological report describing the Mexican wolf's 
current status. The biological report supports the recovery plan by 
providing the background, life-history, and threat assessment 
information. The biological report was independently peer-reviewed by 
scientists outside of the Service and is available at https://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036, and also at our 
Web site: https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/. As with the 
implementation strategy, we will regularly update the biological report 
as new species status information becomes available, without having to 
concurrently review the recovery plan.

Species History

    The Mexican wolf was originally listed as an endangered subspecies 
on April 28, 1976 (41 FR 17736), but was subsumed into the listing for 
the gray wolf in the coterminous United States and Mexico in 1978 (43 
FR 9607, March 9, 1978). The Mexican wolf is currently listed as an 
endangered subspecies throughout its range without critical habitat (80 
FR 2488, January 16, 2015). The Mexican wolf is also listed as 
endangered by the Secretar[iacute]a de Medio Ambiente y Recursos 
Naturales, or Federal Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resource 
(SEMARNAT 2010) in Mexico. Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico are 
protected under State wildlife statutes as the gray wolf. In Arizona, 
the gray wolf is on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's list of 
``Species of Greatest Conservation Need.'' In New Mexico, the gray wolf 
is listed as endangered.
    In the United States, current Mexican wolf range includes portions 
of Arizona and New Mexico in an area designated as the Mexican Wolf 
Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) under the Act, section 10(j) (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2016). The Service began releasing Mexican 
wolves from captivity into the MWEPA in 1998, marking the first Mexican 
wolf reintroduction since their extirpation in the late 1970s. As of 
2016, there is a single population of at least 113 Mexican wolves in 
the MWEPA (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2017). In Mexico, the current 
Mexican wolf range includes the northern portion of the Sierra Madre 
Occidental in the state of Chihuahua (L[oacute]pez Gonz[aacute]lez 
2017, pers. comm.). After Mexican wolves were extirpated from Mexico in 
the late 1970s to early 1980s, Mexico began reintroducing the 
subspecies from captivity back into the wild in 2011. In Mexico, as of 
April 2017, approximately 28 wolves inhabit the northern portion of the 
Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in the state of Chihuahua (Garcia 
Chavez et al. 2017).
    In addition to the wild populations, a Mexican wolf captive 
population is managed under the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan 
(SSP), administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The SSP 
is a binational captive-breeding program with the primary purpose of 
producing Mexican wolves for reintroduction in the United States and 
Mexico and conducting public education and research. The captive 
population is the sole source of Mexican wolves available to 
reestablish the species in the wild and is, therefore, an essential 
component of the Mexican wolf recovery effort.
    The Mexican wolf is at risk of extinction in the wild primarily 
because of gunshot-related mortality, inbreeding, loss of 
heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, small population size, and 
the cumulative effects of the aforementioned threats (80 FR 2488, 
January 16, 2015). As a result of predator control and eradication 
efforts in the 20th century, the number of Mexican wolves declined 
rapidly (Mech and Boitani 2003), but with the capture of the last 
remaining Mexican wolves in the wild in Mexico, and subsequent addition 
of several wolves already in captivity, the United States and Mexico 
established a binational captive-breeding program with seven unrelated 
``founders.'' As a result of this small number of founders, Mexican 
wolves face the aforementioned genetic challenges (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2014).

Recovery Plan Strategy

    The overall strategy for recovering the Mexican wolf focuses on 
improving the two populations' resilience (i.e., population size) and 
genetic representation, one in the MWEPA in

[[Page 29920]]

the United States, and one in the northern portion of the Sierra Madre 
Occidental in Mexico, across an adequate ecological and geographic 
range of representation within each population. The strategy involves 
carefully managing the captive-breeding program, releasing Mexican 
wolves from the captive-breeding program into the wild, and 
translocating Mexican wolves from the MWEPA to Mexico, to ensure two 
genetically and demographically viable populations are extant in the 
wild for redundancy. In order to achieve the genetic criteria for 
downlisting and delisting the Mexican wolf in this Plan, the states of 
New Mexico and Arizona, and the Mexican government, will determine the 
timing, location and circumstances of releases of wolves into the wild 
within their respective states, and Mexico, from the captive 
population, with the Service providing collaborative logistical support 
and facilitation of those recovery actions.
    Under this strategy, Mexican wolves will be managed to achieve an 
average population size, with an upper population size management 
boundary applied to the MWEPA that would allow all forms of management 
to ensure that population growth does not continue unchecked. The 
population in Mexico will not be managed with an upper boundary. 
Another key component of the strategy includes working with Federal, 
State, Tribal, and local partners, and the public, to improve Mexican 
wolf tolerance on the landscape.

Request for Public Comments

    The Act, section 4(f), requires us to provide public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment during recovery plan 
development. Our policy is to also request peer review of recovery 
plans (59 FR 34270, July 1, 1994). We will summarize and respond to the 
issues the public and peer reviewers raise and make our responses 
available to the public. Substantive comments may or may not result in 
changes to the recovery plan; comments regarding recovery plan 
implementation will be forwarded as appropriate to Federal or other 
entities so that they can be taken into account during the course of 
implementing recovery actions. Pursuant to a court order, this recovery 
plan must be finalized by November 30, 2017.
    We invite written comments on the draft recovery plan. In 
particular, we are interested in comments on the recovery strategy, 
recovery criteria, recovery actions, and the cost estimates associated 
with implementing the recommended recovery actions.
    We make reference throughout the draft recovery plan to locations 
where more detailed information can be found. Information on the 
Mexican wolf's life-history needs, threats, current status and future 
projections, survey guidelines, and conservation efforts to date are 
detailed in a variety of separate documents, including the biological 
report the Service developed. These documents can be found at https://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036 and also at our 
Web site: https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.
    Before we approve our final recovery plan, we will consider all 
comments we receive by the date specified in DATES. You may submit your 
comments and materials concerning the draft recovery plan by one of the 
methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by 
the methods described in ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this information from public 
review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Comments and materials we receive will be available, by 
appointment, for public inspection during normal business hours at our 
office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available at 
https://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036, on our 
Web site (https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/), or upon 
request from the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR 


    We developed our draft recovery plan under the authority of the 
Act, section 4(f), 16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish this notice under 
section 4(f) Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.).

    Dated: June 20, 2017.
Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-13762 Filed 6-29-17; 8:45 am]