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Wolves in the state of Wyoming are once again being protected under the Endangered Species Act. Just two years ago, those protections had been taken away. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the state's management plan for wolves was inadequate and unenforceable. The state of Wyoming is fighting that decision. And, as NPR's Nathan Rott reports, the ruling has renewed a long bitter debate between conservationists, sportsmen and politicians.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: When the Obama administration ended protections for wolves in Wyoming, it required the state have a management plan to maintain certain things, including a minimum number of animals - 10 breeding pairs and 100 animals in total. Environmental organizations quickly sued, saying that the state wasn't doing enough to guarantee those minimums. And the federal judge agreed. She even called the Fed's decision to accept Wyoming's plan, quote, "arbitrary and capricious." Trip Van Noppen is president of Earthjustice, which led the lawsuit.
TRIP VAN NOPPEN: The sentiment in Wyoming has been go back to extermination of wolves or as close to that as we're allowed to get.
ROTT: Van Noppen points to Wyoming's dual classification of wolves. In one part of the state, called the trophy zone, there are strict limits on how many wolves can be killed. Outside of that, in about 85 percent of the state, wolves are classified as vermin, which can be shot on sight. Sportsmen groups and state officials point out, though, that most wolves live in that protected trophy zone. David Allen is the CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. He says hunters and state officials know better than to invite the Feds back into the issue.
DAVID ALLEN: Despite any rhetoric that anybody wants to throw out there, none of them are going to take the wolf population below the agreed-upon minimums.
ROTT: Carlton Loewer is a hunting outfitter in Wyoming. He says the state's wolf population actually increased last year, despite a hunt.
CARLTON LOEWER: We know where we stand on the wolves. We know they're going to be here, therefore let us manage them.
ROTT: A three-month wolf hunting season was set to begin tomorrow. Nathan Rott, NPR News.
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