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Gray wolf to lose federal endangered species protection in most of U.S.

March 11, 2009 |  9:21 pm

Gray wolf

In recent weeks, the Obama administration announced a departure from one Bush-era decision about endangered species.  But another Bush administration decision -- the one to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list -- will hold. 

The policy change to delist the gray wolf was made in January before President Obama took office, but its adoption was put on hold so it could be reviewed by the new administration.  The wolf will be delisted in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho and Montana, and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon.  It will retain its federal protection in Wyoming, where Interior Department officials say recovery efforts have been inadequate.  The New York Times reports:

The delisting allows Montana and Idaho to assume complete management of the animal, which will include a hunting season in both states. The move also delists wolves in the western Great Lakes and parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington. ...

"The recovery of the gray wolf throughout significant portions of its historic range is one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "Today, we have more than 5,500 wolves, including more than 1,600 in the Rockies."

Jenny Harbine, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Bozeman, Mont., which has sued to keep the federal protections, said, "We're disappointed." She added, "Idaho has shown an eagerness to kill as many wolves as possible, and they are drawing up plans for killing wolves as we speak."

In 2007, Gov. C. L. Otter of Idaho said he favored reducing the number of wolves there to 100 from more than 800. He also said he would be the first to buy a wolf hunting license.

The delisting takes effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The gray wolf's status has been a matter of contention for some time, and environmentalists say that -- once again -- they will take the issue to court.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Joel Sartore / Getty Images

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