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 Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump announces restart to Taliban peace talks in surprise Afghanistan visit Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid MORE (R-Wyo.) in the Senate and Reps. Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisLiz Cheney leads GOP field by 20 points in potential Wyoming Senate race: poll Liz Cheney and Rand Paul extend war of words Pressure rises on Cheney to make decision MORE (R-Wyo.) and Doc HastingsRichard (Doc) Norman 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 HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinNo one wins with pro-abortion litmus test Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary Political purity tests are for losers MORE (W.Va.) and Reps. Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot Trump's budget targets affordable, reliable power MORE (Utah), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea SewellLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Yovanovitch: It's been a 'very, very difficult time' House to take up voting rights, government funding this month 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.