The Trump Administration is ending Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves throughout much of the U.S.
Federal officials argue that the western Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest regions boast healthy gray wolf populations. They say that means the species has recovered, the Associated Press reports.
Some see the decision as an overture to rural voters in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Hunters and ranchers sometimes claim the wolves go after animals like elk and livestock.
Removing wolves from the endangered species list was hotly contested in courts, according to the Denver Post.
Colorado voters will soon decide whether to reintroduce the wolves to their former habitat in the western part of the state. That ballot measure is supported by conservationists and opposed by many county commissions and chambers of commerce.
“National wolf delisting would leave any wolves that may make it to Colorado with even fewer protections. It would also cut off any protected path through Utah, in addition to Wyoming’s current shoot-on-sight policy for most of that state,” Defenders of Wildlife Rockies and Plains program director Jon Proctor told the Post.
Meanwhile, the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes region will suffer from the change, University of Wisconsin Professor of Environmental Studies Adrian Treves said. He said research shows that not only hunting but also poaching rises when federal enforcement disappears.
“The science is 100 percent clear that there will be a spike in mortality,” he told the AP.
Welcome News to Farmers and Hunters
But the delisting is welcome news to many farmers and hunters.
Ashleigh Calaway of Pittsville, Wisconsin told the AP that wolves killed 13 sheep on her family’s farm last year. She supports culling the wolf herd.
“It’s allowing them to be managed to a level to lower the risk to sheep and cattle,” Calaway said.
There are an estimated 6,000 gray wolves in the lower 48 states, Reuters reports. There were around 1,000 in the 1970s, when officials first included gray wolves on the endangered species list.