The Obama administration on Friday proposed lifting most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts but has been criticized by some scientists as premature.
With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.
Under the administration’s plan, federal protections would remain only for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest. The proposal will be subject to a public comment period and a final decision made within a year.
While the wolf’s recent resurgence is likely to continue at some level elsewhere — multiple packs roam portions of Washington and Oregon, and individual wolves have been spotted in Colorado, Utah and the Northeast — Ashe indicated it’s unrealistic to think the clock can be turned back entirely.
Hunters and trappers already are targeting the predators in states where protections previously were lifted. They’ve killed some 1,600 wolves in the past several years in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Environmental groups have vowed to challenge the government in court if it takes the animals off the endangered species list as planned. (AP)