By Center for Biological Diversity

After pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday it will release about 10 Mexican gray wolves into the wilds of southwestern New Mexico–a move scientists say is crucial to reduce dangerous inbreeding of the rare creatures.

Just days earlier, the Center and allies sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, signed by 43 groups and scientists, asking her to release at least five packs of endangered Mexican gray wolves into New Mexico’s 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest.

Back in 1998, after a Center lawsuit, the Service began reintroducing Mexican gray wolves from captive-breeding facilities into their historic U.S. Southwest range, where they had been obliterated by federal poisoning and trapping. But the Service only released wolves into a small part of Arizona’s Apache National Forest, which quickly filled with wolf families.

“Releasing Mexican wolves to the wild is the only way to save these animals from extinction,” the Center’s Michael Robinson told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “It’s vital now that enough wolves get released to diversify their gene pool and ensure they don’t waste away from inbreeding.”

Read more in the Center for Biological Diversity press release and the Santa Fe New Mexican.