TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Obama administration and two states have given notice of plans to appeal a federal judge's order that restored legal protection to gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region.
Michigan filed an appeal document Friday with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., a day after Wisconsin did so. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed notices earlier this month, although a spokeswoman said a final decision on whether to pursue the case would be made by the Department of Justice.
Either way, "the science clearly shows that wolves are recovered in the Great Lakes region, and we believe the Great Lakes states have clearly demonstrated their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations," Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Laury M. Parramore said.
Although scientists consider the Great Lakes wolves' territory to include nine states, just three — Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — have established populations of about 3,700 animals total.
The government has tried four times since 2003 to strip protection under the Endangered Species Act, saying the wolves have far exceeded recovery goals after nearly disappearing from the lower 48 states in the last century. Each time, the proposals have been withdrawn or overturned in court.
In a December ruling, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said the three states' management plans — which allow sport hunting and, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, trapping of wolves — don't provide enough protection. She noted the predator species has not come close to repopulating its historic range.
The Endangered Species Act "offers the broadest possible protections for endangered species by design," Howell wrote. "This law reflects the commitment by the United States to act as a responsible steward of the Earth's wildlife, even when such stewardship is inconvenient or difficult for the localities where an endangered or threatened species resides."
Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said people who live near wolves, including in the state's Upper Peninsula, should be able to use a variety of control methods.
"Continuing to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a recovered species not only undermines the integrity of the Act, it leaves farmers and others with no immediate recourse when their animals are being attacked and killed by wolves," said Russ Mason, the DNR's wildlife division chief.
A coalition of environmental groups has proposed classifying all wolves in the lower 48 states, except Mexican wolves in the Southwest, as "threatened." That would enable wildlife managers to kill wolves that repeatedly prey on livestock, which is not allowed for species classified as "endangered."
"We think that is the right middle ground," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, which filed the lawsuit that led to Howell's ruling.
A number of sporting groups also have filed notices to appeal, including the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association.
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