Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced last week Wednesday that gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, as well as in portions of eastern Oregon and Washington and north-central Utah, had been formally removed from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife.
The federal government also is proposing to delist gray wolf populations in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, saying they're also biologically recovered.
"This is a tremendous success story for the Endangered Species Act. It was just 16 years ago that gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, and now populations in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes are biologically recovered," Salazar said during a conference call with reporters. "It's time to return their management to the states that are prepared to manage them."
While public comment will be taken on the Western Great Lakes region's proposed delisting, that won't take place for the Rocky Mountain population because the Department of Interior is simply reinstating the terms of a 2009 rule - in which a public comment period was held - that removed their federally protected status, as directed by Congress in April.
Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service late last week in opposition to the delisting.
However, Rep. Candice Miller (Mich.) this week introduced a bill to turn over management of gray wolves to state wildlife agencies in all states, outside of Alaska, where wolves are known to exist. Miller said congressional action is needed because environmentalists' lawsuits repeatedly have blocked regulators from keeping wolf numbers under control.
Reprinted in part from the Helena Independent Record and the Billings Gazette