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 HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney MORE (R-Utah) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing MORE (R-Wyo.) in the Senate and Reps. Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces The Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government Leading contenders emerge to replace Zinke as Interior secretary 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 HeitkampOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Centrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Bipartisan group of senators will urge Trump to reopen government for 3 weeks 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 SewellFormer staffer accuses Jackson Lee of retaliation after rape claim Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour DeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot 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.