US wildlife officials aim to remove wolf protections in 2020

FILE - This June 29, 2017, file remote camera image provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a female gray wolf and two of the three pups born in 2017 in the wilds of Lassen National Forest in Northern California. The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of 2020, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (U.S. Forest Service via AP, File)
FILE - This June 29, 2017, file remote camera image provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a female gray wolf and two of the three pups born in 2017 in the wilds of Lassen National Forest in Northern California. The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of 2020, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (U.S. Forest Service via AP, File) (U.S. Forest Service)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of the year, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.

“We’re working hard to have this done by the end of the year and I’d say it’s very imminent,” Aurelia Skipwith told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday.

The administration also is pushing ahead with a rollback of protections for migratory birds despite a recent setback in federal court, she said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service last year proposed dropping the wolf from the endangered list in the lower 48 states, exempting a small population of Mexican wolves in the Southwest. It was the latest of numerous attempts to return management authority to the states — moves that courts have repeatedly rejected after opponents filed lawsuits.

Shot, trapped and poisoned to near extinction in the last century, wolves in recent decades rebounded in the western Great Lakes region and portions of the West, the total population exceeding 6,000. They have been removed from the endangered list in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and portions of Oregon, Utah and Washington state.

Federal protections remain elsewhere.

A federal judge in 2014 restored protection for the animals in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, a decision upheld by an appeals court in 2017.

Skipwith, echoing the Fish and Wildlife Service’s long-held policy, told the AP the wolf has “biologically recovered” and that its removal from the list would demonstrate the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act.