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(File photo) CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- U.S. senators from Wyoming, Idaho and Utah are proposing legislation that would strip wolves in the northern Rockies of federal endangered species protection.
The legislation unveiled Thursday is the latest in a series of recent bills all generally aimed at short-circuiting legal opposition from environmental groups opposed to seeing an end to federal wolf protections.
"Recovery numbers and science show that wolves no longer need to be on the endangered species list," said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., one of the sponsors.
"States are completely capable of managing wolves on their own without the federal government micromanaging them at every turn. This bill would finally free our state, ranchers and wildlife from the shackles of federal mismanagement," Enzi said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, who joined with the other western senators, says since the gray wolf has become endangered, populations have grown to threaten wildlife and livestock.
"Bureaucrats in Washington don't understand the kind of impact" the wolf has throughout the West, Hatch said.
The bill's other sponsors are Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.; and Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho.
Much of the environmentalists' concern has centered on Wyoming, where the state has proposed classifying wolves as predators that could be shot on sight in most areas.
Wyoming Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, who chairs a legislative committee that deals with wildlife issues, said he would welcome an end to federal protections for the wolf that would allow states to set hunting seasons.
"I think by going to the hunting issue, we'll be able to reduce a number of impacts to the land owners and the ranchers," the state legislator said. "I'm still a firm believer that if they're hunted, they're going to avoid people."
But environmental groups promise stiff opposition to any congressional effort to sidestep the Endangered Species Act and offer wolves less protection.
Story written with contributions from Ben Neary of the Associated Press