Move afoot in Congress to take wolves off endangered list in MN, 3 other states

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A proposal circulating on Capitol Hill would remove federal protection of the gray wolf in four states, including Minnesota.

The Duluth News Tribune reports Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., is collecting co-authors of a bill that would also apply to Minnesota, Michigan, and Wyoming.

The bill would essentially reverse last month's court ruling that returned the gray wolf to the endangered species list in the three Great Lakes states.

U. S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote in her decision that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by de-listing the wolf in 2012 and turning management of the packs over to the states. The judge agreed with groups whose lawsuit argued that, while wolf numbers have recovered in those states, the animal occupies only a fraction of its historic range in North America.

The restoration of federal protection eliminated wolf hunting seasons in the states. The ruling has drawn criticism not only from ranchers concerned about losing livestock to wolves, but also from biologists who consider the wolf's recovery in Minnesota a success.

Peterson among co-authors

Ribble tells the Associated Press his bill would provide a "legislative fix," allowing the states to manage their wolf populations without undermining the Endangered Species Act.

Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson tells the AP he has agreed to co-sponsor the measure and – while he doesn't know what its prospects are – he's working to line up support.

According to the AP, Congress used similar legislation in 2011 to remove federal wolf protections in Montana and Idaho.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering whether to appeal the December ruling. A spokeswoman for Ribble tells the News Tribune the bill will likely be introduced early in February.

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Gray wolves in Minnesota are coming off endangered species list

The Obama administration on Wednesday said that more than 4,000 gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have recovered from the threat of extinction and will officially be removed from federal protection. Meanwhile the Minnesota DNR says it is ready to take over managing the animal. And the Associated Press looks into the wolf's still-uncertain future.