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Lawmakers urge feds to lift gray wolf protections

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

A group of 75 members of Congress have sent a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf in the lower 48 states. The agency was set to hold public hearings to gather input on the proposed delisting.

About 75 members of Congress led by Washington Rep. Doc Hastings have sent a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist gray wolves in the lower 48 states.

The group also opposes a federal plan to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered species.

The lawmakers, who include Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch and about a half-dozen Western members of the House of Representatives, say the purpose of the Endangered Species Act was to help species recover. More than 6,100 wolves now roam the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, and multiple packs roam Idaho, Washington and Oregon, according to the Associated Press.

“The gray wolf is currently found in 46 countries around the world and has been placed in the classification of ‘least concern’ globally for risk of extinction” by a wolf specialist group, the petitioners wrote. “This is a clear indication that this species is not endangered or threatened.”

Hastings, a Republican, chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. Other lawmakers who signed the letter included Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; Greg Walden, R-Ore.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Claire Cassel said in an email the agency appreciates “the support expressed for the service’s recent proposed rule and the conservation of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act.” The agency has not yet responded to the letter, she said.

The letter comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was set to hold one of its four hearings on wolves in Sacramento on Nov. 22. Other hearings were being held Nov. 19 in Denver, Nov. 20 in Albuquerque, N.M., and Dec. 3 in Pinetop, Ariz.

Asked why a public hearing was scheduled in California even though no wolves are in the state, Cassel said locations were chosen “based on requests we received from elected officials and the public, and with the intent of providing the best access possible across the country for the public to participate considering our limited budget.”

The agency proposed lifting most gray wolf protections in June, a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts. Some scientists and members of Congress have argued the wolves should still be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.

On its website, the agency explained that the gray wolf’s current listing “erroneously included large geographical areas outside the species’ historical range.” Federal protections have already been lifted in parts of the West and Midwest, including Idaho and parts of Oregon and Washington.

Under the administration’s plan, federal protections would remain only for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest. Hastings and the other lawmakers argue the listing would have “a severe impact on private landowners, including ranchers” in the Southwest.

Online

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gray wolf page: http://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery/



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