U.S. plans to lift
protections for gray wolves
Capital Press March 6, 2019
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift
protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move
certain to re-ignite the legal battle over a predator that's
rebounding in some regions and running into conflicts with
farmers and ranchers, an official told The Associated Press.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was expected to
announce the proposal during a Wednesday speech before a
wildlife conference in Denver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman
Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.
The decision to lift protections is based on gray wolves
successfully recovering from widespread extermination last
century, Shire said. He said further details would be made
public during a formal announcement planned in coming days.
Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped
and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the
They received endangered species protections in 1975, when there
were about 1,000 left, only in northern Minnesota. Now more than
5,000 of the animals live in the contiguous U.S.
Most are in the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies
regions. Protections for the Northern Rockies population were
lifted in 2011 and hundreds are now killed annually by hunters.
State officials say wolves have continued to thrive despite
pressure from hunting. The animals are prolific breeders and can
adapt to a variety of habitats.
Wildlife advocates want federal protections kept in place until
wolves repopulate more of their historic range that once
stretched across most of North America.
Since being reintroduced in Yellowstone National park and
central Idaho in the mid-1990s, the Northern Rockies population
has expanded to parts of Oregon, Washington and California.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has argued for years that the gray
wolf has recovered in the lower 48 states, despite occupying
only a small fraction of the territory it once roamed. Agency
officials insist that recovery of wolves everywhere is not
required for the species to no longer be in danger of
The government first proposed revoking the wolf's protected
status across the Lower 48 states in 2013, but backed off after
federal courts struck down its plan for "delisting" the species
in the western Great Lakes region states of Michigan, Minnesota
Fish and Wildlife Service officials disclosed to the AP last
year that another scientific review of the animal's status had
Shire declined to diclose the agency's rationale for its
decision the species had recovered, but said members of the
public would have a chance to comment before a final decision in
Lawmakers in Congress frustrated with court rulings maintaining
protections for wolves have backed legislation to forcibly strip
protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region and beyond. A
similar effort by lawmakers succeeded in 2011 for Northern
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