Lawmakers want gray wolf off endangered list

“Unmanaged wolves are devastating to livestock and indigenous wildlife. Currently, state wildlife officials have their hands tied any time wolves are involved,” the lawmakers, led by Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins GOP leaders, top tax writers: Trump principles will be 'critical guideposts' Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform MORE (R-Utah) and John BarrassoJohn BarrassoPoll: Sanders most popular senator in the US The animal advocate Trump climate move risks unraveling Paris commitments MORE (R-Wyo.) in the Senate and Reps. Cynthia LummisCynthia LummisDems on offense in gubernatorial races Trump's Interior candidates would play Russian roulette with West Trump eyes House members for Cabinet jobs MORE (R-Wyo.) and Doc HastingsDoc HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (R-Wash.) in the House.

“They need to be able to respond to the needs of their native wildlife without being burdened by the impediments of the federal bureaucracy created by the [Endangered Species Act].”

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The members who signed onto the letter come from states across the country. Democratic supporters included Sens. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampOvernight Regulation: Senators call for 'cost-effective' regs | FCC chief unveils plans to roll back net neutrality Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Battle begins over Wall Street rules MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general MORE (W.Va.) and Reps. Jim MathesonJim MathesonWork begins on T infrastructure plan New president, new Congress, new opportunity First black GOP woman in Congress wins reelection MORE (Utah), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Terri SewellTerri SewellA guide to the committees: House CBC to Trump: Keep Richard Cordray, ensure the protection of American consumers WHIP LIST: More than 60 Dems boycotting Trump's inauguration MORE (Ala.) and Tim Walz (Minn.).

The gray wolf has been protected for about 40 years, but lost the protected or endangered status in the upper-Midwest last January. Congress is now trying to lift the protections for the animal in rest of the lower 48 states, saying that uncontrolled population growth has affected livestock on farms and imposed “tragic damages” to moose, elk and bighorn sheep in the wild. 

There are about 5,000 gray wolves in the continental U.S., with a vibrant population of about 11,000 in Alaska that goes unprotected, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The animals were formerly one of the most common in the nation until mass hunts nearly left them extinct. 

A handful of animal welfare groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States, issued a lawsuit last month to restore the gray wolf’s protections in the Midwest, according to The Associated Press. 

Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are the largest home to the gray wolf outside of Alaska, with populations that totaled an estimated 4,400 before their protections lapsed. Smaller populations can be found in in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, New Mexico and Arizona.

Animal welfare groups claim that since the protections ended last year, hunters have killed hundreds of wolves in those states.