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Panel Says Government Used Unproven Science For Wolf Plan

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BOZEMAN -

A proposal to lift federal protections for gray wolves across most of the U.S. suffers a significant setback Friday.

An independent review panel said the government is relying on unsettled science to make its case.

Wolves in Montana are now managed by state regulations, allowing for a hunting season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to remove all gray wolves from the federal endangered species list in the lower 48 states, except for a small group in the southwestern part of the country.

But that plan hit a stumbling block Friday when a panel of scientists  determined there is not enough evidence to support FWS's claims that the gray wolves in the Northeast and Midwest are home to a different species of wolves than those found in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes.

Steven Courtney headed that panel.

He said the panel agreed FWS didn't look at all the research available on the wolves for its decision.

"The service was inappropriate," said Courtney. "There was wider literature, more approaches to understanding the situation."

Courtney said FWS approached the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of Santa Barbara for the review.

"We were charged to create a clear and clean process that the Fish and Wildlife Service had no control over," said Courtney.

Under the proposed plan, the Mexican gray wolves in the desert southwest will remain on the endangered list.

FWS officials said they will take the panel's suggestion into consideration, along with all the public comments before making a final decision.

They hope to have the decision by the end of the year.

FWS will open public comment for its proposed rule again on Monday.

You will have March 20 to submit your comments.

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