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Fed move would end wolf protections in places where there are no wolves

Mar 28, 2013 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Western environmental groups say they're alarmed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a plan to end federal protections for gray wolves in vast areas where the animals no longer exist.

The groups say ending federal protections would keep wolves from expanding their range back into states that could support them, including Colorado and California.

"As a matter of principle, I just think it's wrong," said Jay Tutchton, a Colorado lawyer with the group WildEarth Guardians.

Tutchton's group has sued over recent action to end federal protections for wolves in Wyoming. Wolves in most of the "Cowboy State" are classified as unprotected predators and scores have been killed since federal protections ended last fall.

"The Endangered Species Act was designed to protect species, including in places where they no longer reside," Tutchton said. "You were supposed to try to recover them, not throw in the towel."

The Fish and Wildlife Service could announce as soon as this spring whether it will propose a blanket delisting of wolves in most of the lower 48 states. Wolves in the Northern Rockies and around the Great Lakes, where reintroduced populations are well-established, are already off the Endangered Species List.

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