Melissa Nann Burke, Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington — A U.S. House committee is expected to vote Wednesday to advance two bills that would remove the gray wolf in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the federal endangered species list.
The proposed change in designation follows a ruling last month by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upholding a lower court that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had acted prematurely by removing federal protections from the wolves.
Litigation over the listing of the wolves has been in the courts for years. Environmental groups argue that the species remains vulnerable after nearly disappearing from the region in the 1970s.
State and federal regulators maintain the gray wolf has recovered with, for example, an estimated 610 wolves now in the Upper Peninsula.
The Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act in part would “take wolf recovery and delisting out of the hands of the courts and will return wolf management and conservation to the states, where they belong,” said Anna M. Seidman, director of government affairs and director of litigation for the Safari Club International.
Seidman testified Tuesday at a hearing before the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the bill, nicknamed the SHARE Act, which also attempts to preclude judicial review of the issue in the future.
“It’s a cynical joke to say this bill helps hunters and sportsmen,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “There’s nothing sportsmanlike about killing sleeping wolves and bears or poisoning clean waters.”
Another bill, called the Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017, would also remove the gray wolf from endangered species list. It is also slated for a vote at a markup continued to Wednesday.
That legislation is co-sponsored by several Republican members from Michigan including Reps. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet, Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, John Moolenaar of Midland, Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Tim Walberg of Tipton.
Committee staffers said in a memo that under the legislation, the Fish & Wildlife Service would retain the authority to relist the gray wolves for federal protection if their population warrants.
Michigan voters approved two referenda proposals to ban wolf hunting in 2014.
State wildlife officials have advocated — when allowed — for a controlled hunt, and for livestock owners to have the right to kill a wolf to defend their animals.