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Environment & Climate Change

Obama administration proposes lifting federal protection for most wolves

Credit John Vucetich/Rolf Peterson / Michigan Tech

The Obama administration announced a proposal to lift the federal protection of gray wolves in 48 states. 

The director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, said wolves have recovered.

According to Matthew Brown and John Flesher of the Associated Press, Ashe cited the wolf population as having "successfully rebounded."

Ashe said that "science is an important part of this decision, but really the key is the policy question of when a species is recovered. Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered? Our answer to that question is no."

The Associated Press added: 

Gray wolf protections previously were lifted in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, which now have more than 6,100 wolves. Some scientists and conservation groups insist the government's work isn't done. They say wolves need continued protections so they can return to parts of their historical range in the Pacific Northwest, the southern Rockies of Colorado and Utah and the Northeast.

Under the proposal, the only areas of the United States in which wolves would be protected would be in the Southwest, specifically New Mexico and Arizona. 

Felicity Barringer of the New York Times wrote that the proposal was unfavorable to some environmental groups. They believed that the decision "reflected a parsimonious view of the Endangered Species Act" and would limit further population growth and recovery for wolves:

Kieran Suckling, the president of the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, said, "What this is really about is the agency saying: We're closing the door on recovery of wolves, new wolf populations in new areas. We're going to be satisfied with a Northern Rockies population, a Great Lakes population, and a southwest population."

This fall, Michigan is expected to hold its first wolf hunt since federal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes were lifted.

- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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