A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to finally establish an updated recovery plan for the Mexican Gray Wolves.

On Oct. 17, U.S. Judge Jennifer Zipps, in the District of Arizona, approved an agreement reached last April between environmental groups, the states of Utah and Arizona and the FWS, to complete a recovery plan by the end of November 2017. The agreement sets parameters for management of the reintroduction program, including where they should be allowed to roam, and to establish population targets.

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGF) declined to join the settlement, although it did intervene in the lawsuit after the FWS released pups into the wild, despite the NMGF declining the issuance of a permit to do so.

The agreement requires the FWS to consider all available scientific and commercial information from state agencies, including NMGF, and other entities, and to be supported by an independent peer review.

Arizona and New Mexico wildlife management agencies have both challenged the FWS over the program, and last summer the U.S. Inspector General’s office issued a blistering report outlining mismanagement of the recovery program.

Reintroductions of the species occur in both states, where ranching and elk hunting are major industries. There are 97 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona, according to Fish and Wildlife.

Environmental organizations, often at odds with ranching interests, in this case have joined the state agencies in seeking a management plan, but the FWS failed to complete such a plan three times since the original plan was adopted in 1982.