State wolf delisting likely

Duluth, Minn. The efforts to bring the timber wolf back from the
brink of extinction in Minnesota have been successful, and as
evidence the federal government will soon announce plans to remove
the wolves from the endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a news conference
Friday at the wolf research facility in Forest Lake to announce a
proposal to remove the wolf from the endangered species list.

Top state and federal wildlife officials are scheduled to
attend, including Steve Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
director.

“We’re getting ready to move ahead,” agency spokeswoman Betsy
Lorden said.

The federal action applies only to the eastern United States and
will have the most effect on Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan
where gray wolves have rebounded beyond most everyone’s
expectations.

“We’ve been ready for delisting for a long time now,” said
Adrian Wydeven, Wisconsin wolf biologist. “I always thought we’d
eventually see delisting. But I never thought we’d ever see as many
wolves as we have.”

The hand-over, when it’s final, will mean states can start wolf
trapping and even hunting seasons. However, the delisting process
will take at least a year to clear the federal bureaucracy, and
there could be opposition from private groups.

“There’s the inevitable lawsuits. Everyone expects serious
litigation, so we’re not holding our breath,” said Mike DonCarlos,
assistant wildlife program manager for the Minnesota DNR.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are ready and eager to take
back control of wolves when final delisting occurs. Each state has
a new wolf management plan in place, and federal regulators like
what they see.

The state plans generally call for wolves to be left alone,
except near farms and outside northern forest areas. Wolves will be
open to more trapping and shooting near areas where livestock or
pets have been attacked.

Minnesota’s plan calls for hiring another wolf biologist and
increased law enforcement. Minnesota also will start a wolf trapper
certification program and probably will be asked to foot part of
the cost of the ongoing federal wolf trapping program run by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan wolf plans are
conservative enough to ensure the wolf won’t fall back to
endangered status after the federal government hands over control,
said Ron Refsnider, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf biologist.
The federal government will monitor wolf numbers for five years
after the delisting.

This week’s proposal will have no effect on western state wolf
populations.

Federal regulators have put those delisting plans on hold
indefinitely because state lawmakers in Wyoming have refused to
change decades-old state wolf laws that encourage killing of most
wolves in the state. Until Wyoming enacts modest wolf protections,
federal protections are likely to remain in place. Associated
Press

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