MATHEW DAILEY ASSOCIATED PRES – YAKIMA HERALD – WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House passed a bill Friday to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states, reopening a lengthy battle over the predator species.
Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century. Since securing protection in the 1970s, wolves have bounced back in the western Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.
About 5,000 wolves live in the lower 48 states, occupying less than 10 percent of their historic range.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the wolf’s status and is expected to declare they’ve recovered sufficiently to be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The House bill would enshrine that policy in law and restrict judicial review of listing decisions. The measure was approved, 196-180, and now goes to the Senate, where prospects are murkier.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, whose district includes the Yakima area, and Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.
“The recovery of the gray wolf is a success story for the Endangered Species Act, and the best available science must determine whether species remain listed,” Newhouse said in a written statement. “States are best-equipped to effectively manage gray wolves and respond to the needs of the ecosystem and local communities.”
Environmental groups and many Democrats slammed the bill as a last-ditch effort by Republicans to push a pro-rancher agenda after losing control of the House in this month’s midterm elections.
Picture: AP Photo/Dawn Villella, File
FILE – In this July 16, 2004, file photo, a gray wolf is seen at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. The Republican-controlled House has passed a bill to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states, reopening a lengthy battle over the predator species.