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(Salt Lake City-AP) -- Federal wildlife officials have loosened protections for the gray wolf in the northern half of Utah, while maintaining full "endangered" status in the southern half.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision yesterday comes as the agency plans to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list altogether.
Craig McLaughlin is the mammals coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He says the down-listing is an important step in handing over more wolf-management authority to Western states, rather than the federal government.
Federal wildlife managers say they have met their wolf-recovery goals for the West. The core of the recovery area is in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. But wolves have now been confirmed to have returned to Utah -- where they were eradicated about 70 years ago.
It's still illegal for private citizens to kill a wolf under the new "threatened" listing that applies to northern Utah.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)