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Fight over US wolf protections heads to federal courtroom

This image from 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. (U.S. Forest Service via AP, File)

This image from 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. (U.S. Forest Service via AP, File)

By MATTHEW BROWN
Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. government attorneys will appear before a federal judge Friday to defend a decision from the waning days of the Trump administration to lift protections for gray wolves across most of the nation, as states step up efforts to drive down wolf numbers through aggressive hunting and trapping.

Wildlife advocates argue the state-sponsored hunts including in Wisconsin, Idaho and Montana could quickly reverse the gray wolf’s recovery over the past several decades in large areas of the West and Midwest.

They want U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland, California White to put wolves back under the legal shield of the Endangered Species Act, which is meant to protect animals from extinction.

But government attorneys counter that the resilient animals could bounce back even if their numbers are sharply reduced. There’s no need to put them back under federal jurisdiction, U.S. Justice Department attorneys said in court documents filed in advance of the hearing.

The case does not cover wolves in the Northern Rockies, where the animals lost protections a decade ago. Federal officials in September said they would consider if those protections should be restored in western states in response to loosened hunting rules in Idaho and Montana.

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