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State pushes for de-listing wolves from Endangered Species list

The Department of Natural Resources Wednesday submitted a formal petition to the U.S. Department of the Interior asking the federal government to decide within 90 days on whether to take wolves in the Great Lakes region off the endangered species list. State officials say they are tired of the federal delays that have kept wolves protected under the Endangered Species Act even though wolf numbers have rebounded to full recovery.

According to the Associated Press, DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten filed the petition because he said it was time to have the federal classification match the Minnesota reality. The DNR is using the petition process so Minnesota doesn’t have to wait for national wolf conservation issues to be resolved before the animal is de-listed. He noted the state’s wolf management plan already has been deemed appropriate by federal regulators.

After years of studies and hearings, wolves were taken off the endangered species list twice in recent years, with management handed to state resource agencies and Native American tribes. But federal court action put wolves back on the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to restart the de-listing process, this time complying with judge’s orders.

Gene Hugoson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said he supports the DNR’s petition because wolf depredation is an issue for some livestock producers in northern Minnesota. He said, “Since 1998, we have received more than 1,000 claims from producers who lost livestock to wolves, and Minnesota taxpayers have spent nearly a million dollars to compensate them for those losses,” He said he believes it is time for the state to have greater flexibility to manage the issue in a way that reflects reality in northern Minnesota.

But several wolf advocacy groups say it’s precisely because some groups want so badly to kill wolves again that the animals should remain federally protected. They say state resource managers are too eager to bow to constituency groups like hunters and farmers, and they say that could lead to wolves being pushed back toward extinction.