A group of Western U.S. lawmakers, including Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, unveiled legislation Thursday that puts state governments in charge of managing wolf populations that lawmakers believe have become a threat to wildlife and livestock.
"Washington needs to get out of the way of how states control wolf populations," said Hatch.
In August, a federal judge in Montana put the wolf back on a federal endangered-species list in some Western states, including an area in the Top of Utah where the wolf had been delisted.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Hatch, removes federal protections for gray wolves because lawmakers believe the wolf has fully returned from low population numbers.
But the proposal has produced complaints from Utah wildlife advocates.
"I am very disappointed in them in being partisan hacks and not being interested in science or the truth," said Kirk Robinson, director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.
Gray wolves were listed as endangered in 1974, but after a reintroduction program in the mid-1990s, federal officials estimate there are more than 1,700 in the Northern Rockies, which includes all of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah.
Federal officials believe the August ruling made moot a 2010 state law that gave Utah the power to manage wolves in the delisted territory, which had touched on several northeastern counties.
Hatch and other lawmakers want states to have full control over the wolves, which have not been seen in high numbers in Utah over the last decade.