TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Federal officials offered a staunch defense Monday of their proposal to drop legal protections for the gray wolf in most of the country, as opponents rallied in the nation’s capital before the first in a series of public hearings on the plan.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called for removing the wolf from the endangered species list for the lower 48 states in June, except for a subspecies called the Mexican wolf in the Southwest, which is struggling to survive. Ranching and hunting groups have praised the proposal, while environmentalists have said it is premature.
A final decision will be made within a year, following a scientific analysis of the agency’s proposal and three public hearings, the first of which was held Monday in Washington. The others are scheduled for Wednesday in Sacramento, Calif., and Friday in Albuquerque, N.M..