Klobuchar, Oberstar, want Gray Wolf off endangered list, back in hunters' sights

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Two big-name Minnesota politicians want the gray wolf removed from the federal Endangered Species List. Those pesky wolves keep attacking pets and livestock, and farmers aren't allowed to shoot them now, you see.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Jim Oberstar both sent letters to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service requesting the gray wolf be de-listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The state Department of Natural Resources made the same request in March, so really, the politicians are just joining the general mood. If the wolves are delisted as a federal endangered species, the state will be in charge of managing them. Farmers will be allowed allowed to shoot the wolves if they pose an immediate threat to livestock on their property (see the state wolf management plan here).

A key part of the plan is that Minnesota's wolf population must remain at at least 1,600.

The state has paid out nearly $1 million to compensate farmers who lost livestock due to the wolves, according to the Strib.

Gray wolves have been coming off the federal endangered list across the country. The population here was estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, according to the state DNR. The most recent population estimate, over winter 2007 to 2008, was 2,921.

Here's the full text of Oberstar's letter, via the Park Rapids Enterprise:

Dear Mr. Gould:

We write to encourage you to review the latest science on the gray wolf population in Minnesota and, if appropriate, remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list.

In March 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the gray wolf population in Minnesota had exceeded its ESA target and in turn removed the Wolf from the ESA list. In September 2008, a federal judge rescinded the March 2007 USFWS decision. In May 2009, after addressing the technicalities raised in the 2008 decision, the USFWS again delisted the wolf and management of the wolf in Minnesota was returned to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Two months later, in response to a lawsuit challenging the removal, the gray wolf was relisted.

In the 1950s, Minnesota's wolf population was estimated at fewer than 750 animals. The ESA recovery plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota. The most recent estimates of Minnesota's wolf population, according to the Minnesota DNR's winter 2007-2008 count, indicate that there are an estimated 3,000 wolves in the state.

This increase in the wolf population provides strong evidence that the Endangered Species Act has been successful. Like other endangered species success stories, such as the Bald Eagle, delisting will allow states like Minnesota to implement and enforce their own species protection plans. The Minnesota DNR currently has a management plan ready to implement if the USFWS delists the gray wolf from the ESA. Under Minnesota's plan, there will be no public hunting or trapping seasons for wolves for at least five years. The plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota, and should the population falls below the minimum the Minnesota DNR will examine reasons behind the decline and adjust wolf management accordingly.

We are confident that the ESA has served its purpose and that the Minnesota DNR is ready and capable of ensuring the continued success of the wolf recovery and we urge you to consider the science and make your determination in a timely manner.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

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