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 HatchHow to marry housing policy and tax reform for millions of Americans Though flawed, complex Medicaid block grants have fighting chance A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Utah) and John BarrassoJohn BarrassoLawmakers fundraise amid rising town hall pressure EPA delays rule on mining cleanup funding EPA head previously used private email for government business MORE (R-Wyo.) in the Senate and Reps. Cynthia LummisCynthia LummisTrump's Interior candidates would play Russian roulette with West Trump eyes House members for Cabinet jobs Trump aide dodges questions about business dealings 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 HeitkampDem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks The buzzword everyone can agree on in the health debate: RESTORE Greens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks Manchin: Sanders backers should challenge me in Dem primary Greens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes MORE (W.Va.) and Reps. Jim MathesonJim MathesonNew president, new Congress, new opportunity First black GOP woman in Congress wins reelection Lobbying world 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.