Environmentalists are blasting a federal government decision not to list the Mexican gray wolf as a separate subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.
The group WildEarth Guardians says Friday's decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service means efforts to help the wolf population recover will be hurt.
WildEarth Guardians petitioned to relist the Mexican wolf as a separate subspecies in 2009.
Mexican wolves are a subspecies of the gray wolf. They were first added to the endangered species list in 1976 after hunting and government-sponsored extermination campaigns nearly wiped them out.
A reintroduction effort along the New Mexico-Arizona border began in 1998 with the release of 11 wolves. The program has been hampered by everything from illegal killings to legal wrangling, and only about 60 live in the region.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.