BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) –” Federal wildlife officials have drafted plans to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that could end a decades-long recovery effort that has restored the animals but only in parts of their historic range.

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The draft U.S. Department of Interior rule obtained by The Associated Press contends the roughly 6,000 wolves now living in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes are enough to prevent the species’ extinction. The agency says having gray wolves elsewhere — such as the West Coast, parts of New England and elsewhere in the Rockies — is unnecessary for their long-term survival.” Associated Press

Only a small population of Mexican wolves-a subspecies of the gray wolf  ,would continue to receive federal protection in the Southwest.

If the rule is enacted, all control of wolves would be transferred to state wildlife agencies, thus removing them from the endangered list.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released data showing wolf numbers dropped 7 percent last year in the face of newly-expanded hunting and trapping seasons in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. That’s the most significant decrease since they were reintroduced in the mid-1990s.” Associated Press

The federal government spent $102 million on gray wolf recovery programs and state agencies chipped in $15.6 million from 1991 and 2011. Federal spending likely would drop if the proposal to lift  gray wolf protection passes.

 

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