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Plans to strip federal gray wolf protections setting up tense debate

DULUTH, MN — Plans to lift federal protections for gray wolves across the country have reignited a tense debate nationwide, and here in Minnesota, about the future of the animal.

On Wednesday, the acting Secretary of the Interior announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose lifting protections for wolves across the Lower 48 states. A public comment period will follow once it makes it on the federal register.

Officials say the proposal is based on wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination over the last century. The wolves received endangered species protections in 1975, and there are now more than 5,000 in the Lower 48.

The American Farm Bureau Federation praises the move, saying many of the group’s members have lost livestock to wolf kills. But wolf advocates say the move is a death sentence for wolves, and livestock kills are just a distraction.

Minnesota-based Howling for Wolves President, Dr. Maureen Hackett, says de-listing the wolf opens up the door for unchallenged land use.

“If the wolf is no longer protected, then things–like development for gas, and oil, and mining–are not going to be interrupted by an endangered species,” says Hackett. “That is something that people tend to forget–that there is a big, global issue here of land use.”

In Wisconsin, lifting protections for gray wolves would force Wisconsin wildlife officials to re-start wolf hunts. In 2012, then governor Scott Walker signed a bill that requires the DNR to hold a wolf hunt.

The law remains valid, which means the DNR would have to reinstate the season if protections are lifted.

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Sean Duffy calls the Trump Administration plan “encouraging.” The Wisconsin 7th Dist. representative released an official statement Wednesday, saying in part:

“We know what’s better for our state’s ecosystem… and Wisconsin farmers deserve to be able to protect their livestock.”

The Associated Press contributed to the contents of this article.

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Billy Wagness

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