Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Michigan Officials Want Gray Wolf Removed From Endangered List

Marquette, MI - The gray wolf has been on the Endangered Species List since 1974, but that could soon change. Tuesday night the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a public hearing about removing the gray wolf from the list.

Officials with the fish and wildlife service are in favor of the move, stating that the gray wolf's recovery goals have been met and exceeded. They say its time to remove the federal protections and give the states control of the wolf population.

U.P. residents got a chance to weigh in on this issue at the meeting.

The process to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list started back in 2000. But the first proposal to do so covered too much of the country, reaching from the Dakotas all the way to the East coast. So officials focused on the Midwest states and released a new proposal last March.

"The delisting proposal is a geographical proposal," explained Ron Refsnider of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It includes this area of the United States, essentially Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan."

Since the start of this process, the wolf population in those states has grown. Now there are over 3 ,000 wolves in Minnesota, 435 in Wisconsin, and just over 400 here in Michigan. But some local residents don't want to see officials react too soon to take them off the endangered list.

"I really like the idea of having wolves in my back yard," says resident Ginger Winn who is opposed to delisting. "I really hope there are still wolves to have in my back yard. If they delist them, then they may not be."

Some say the gray wolf's status should be switched from endangered to threatened. This means the federal protection will still be there, but it won't be as strict. Others disagree. They want control given back to the states.

"If we put it in the hands of the state where we could have some real management and control of the wolves, I think people will be all for it," says Michigan United Conservation representative George Lindquist.

Less than 10 people spoke at the meeting, half for the proposal and half against. If you were unable to attend Tuesday's meeting, you can still submit your written comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until June 26.

Officials expect to reach a decision of whether or not to delist the gray wolf by next year.