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Feds plan to end wolf protection across U.S.

Minnesota and Wisconsin held wolf hunting seasons in 2012. The Obama administration is planning on ending the protection for gray wolves in the entire U.S.

The Obama administration on Friday did as expected and announced their plan to end protections for gray wolves across the U.S. even in areas where they once roamed but no longer exist.

The plan, which was leaked several weeks ago, will have no effect on wolves in Great Lakes states or many western states where federal protections already had been dropped in recent years.

In Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, state and tribal resource agencies have been managing wolf populations since last year, and Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2012 held hunting and trapping seasons on wolves to reduce their numbers.

Because so many wolves now are roaming in the western Great Lakes and northern Rockies, nearly 3,000 in Minnesota alone and 6,000 in all, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the species is no longer in danger of extinction.

But the change would mean wolves would have no federal protection if they wander into nearby states.

Still, federal officials they expect wolves to continue to expand into new states, including California, Utah and the Dakotas, but that federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in those states isn’t necessary to assure their survival.

Clearing wolves off the list will save federal resources, staff and money, for species that are truly needy, officials said Friday.

“We’re saying wolves are recovered, they are no longer threatened with extinction,” Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director, said Friday in a telephone press conference. He said individual states will be allowed to decide how far and where wolves can roam.

There will be a 90-day public comment period with the action final in about a year. The effort does not include Mexican wolves which will be listed as endangered in the Southwest U.S.

Some wolf support groups, such as the Humane Society of the U.S., and some environmental groups oppose the complete de-listing of wolves, saying they should still be protected until they occupy a much larger portion of their original range.

“Wolf recovery has been one of our greatest Endangered Species Act success stories, but stopping now before the population is fully recovered will negate the decades of hard work that have gone into bringing wolves back from the brink of extinction,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. “Without federal protections this symbol of our wild heritage will slide back into harm’s way.”

But Ashe said the Endangered Species Act doesn’t require animals to be restored to all of their range to be considered “recovered,” noting they will never be restored to Denver, Salt Lake City or other metropolitan areas. He noted bison as an example of a species that covers only a fraction of their original range but has a stable population and is not protected.

Ashe said states have been doing a good job managing and monitoring wolf populations even as they conduct broad hunting and trapping programs.

Article written by John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune

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