Agency mulls delisting of western Great Lakes wolves

AP file photo In this Feb. 10, 2006, file photo released by Michigan Technological University, a pack of gray wolves is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan. Wolves in parts of the western Great Lakes region are are being considered for removal from the endangered species list, but several prior attempts to remove protections for the predators have been rejected by judges and new legal challenges are certain.

Populations in that region viable, Fish and Wildlife says

By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI

Capital Press

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again plans to again consider removing gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

Based on several petitions from state governments and hunting groups, the agency has found that delisting the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan "may be warranted."

The agency will conduct a more thorough review of scientific data before reaching a final decision.

Wolf populations in the western Great Lakes region are viable despite disease pressure and "human-caused mortalities," and each of the three states has regulatory measures in place to protect the species, according to the agency.

The Fish and Wildlife Service previously delisted wolves in the Great Lakes region in 2007, but that decision was invalidated by a federal judge the following year.

In 2009, the agency again delisted wolves in the region, but then withdrew the decision as part of a legal settlement with environmental groups.

The Humane Society of the U.S., which opposes delisting, plans to submit arguments to the Fish and Wildlife Service against the removal of any federal protection for the wolf, said Howard Goldman, Minnesota state director for the group.

"We don't believe the wolf is recovered on a national level," he said, adding that the animals only inhabit about 5 percent of their historic range. "The species, as such, has not recovered."

Not all environmental groups oppose delisting wolves in the Great Lakes region.

Wolves in those states have "good connectivity" with populations in Canada, and state regulations are adequate to ensure their continued survival, said Cat Lazaroff, communications director for Defenders of Wildlife. "The Great Lakes management plans have been pretty good."

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