Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A bill removing federal protections for the gray wolf species was passed by the House on Friday.
The Manage Our Wolves Act aims to remove the animal from the list of threatened and endangered species -- and allow ranchers, landowners, hunters and other civilians to shoot them.
The move also would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end protection under the Endangered Species Act, and prohibits lawsuits challenging its delisting.
Representatives of western states argue four decades of federal protection, though it brought the gray wolf back from extinction, has resulted in a significant threat to livestock, pets and humans. Removal of protections was accomplished during the Obama Administration but a federal court ruled in 2014 the FWS did not demonstrate the animals have sufficiently recovered.
"Rather than spend its limited resources protecting vulnerable species, litigation activists have forced the [FWS] to continuously defend every action," Rep. Bruce Westermann, R-Ark., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee's oversight panel, said Friday. "In this case, despite scientific evidence collected by multiple administrations on both sides of the aisle showing that the gray wolf populations have recovered and thrived, the agency remains bogged down in costly, never-ending litigation."
The bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Ill., said the issue is misunderstood by urban members of Congress.
"If you live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., it's not a problem. If you live in Madison, Wis., it's not really a problem," said Illinois Rep. Sean Duffy, the bill's lead sponsor.
He added that removal of the wolf's protections would be "good."
"It's good for the wolves. It's good for the cattle. It's actually really good for our deer population."
Democrats say Republicans overstate the harm gray wolves can do and their presence is critical in maintaining a natural ecosystem.
"We are not having catastrophic predation on cattle in southern Oregon, and we could accommodate more wolves," Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio said. "A lot of this is based on some sort of gut-level historic fear or hatred of predators that has been passed down from generation to generation."
Animal rights groups opposed the effort to delist.
"Management of gray wolves would be turned over to states; when this has occurred in the past, states with wolf populations have promptly allowed hunting," the Animal Welfare Institute said this week. "Opening up killing seasons would jeopardize the fragile progress toward recovery that wolves have made."