(CN) – Congress made the unprecedented move of stripping a species of endangered status through new legislation. Under threat of a government shutdown, Congress for the first time in history approved a budgetary bill including a rider that delisted wolves in five states.
Supported by both Republicans and Democrats, the rider removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Idaho and Montana, along with portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah.
Environmentalists slammed the deed as an ideologically motivated end-run around the science-based Endangered Species Act process. They also say it sets a dangerous precedent.
Proponents of the action, for their part, say that the species had reached recovery goals.
The new law essentially reinstated a 2009 Fish and Wildlife Service decision to designate gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains as a distinct population, and remove it from the endangered species list. Environmentalists had successfully challenged this decision in court.
The action places the fate of more than 1,200 wolves in the Northern Rockies in state hands.
Idaho and Montana, which allowed wolf hunting in the past, reportedly plans wolf hunts for this coming fall. The 2009 season in Montana saw 73 wolves killed, while 185 were hunted to death in Idaho.
A federal judge stopped the hunts there last year due to concerns over the species. About 300 wolves in Wyoming will retain Endangered Species Act protections, for now.
Around the turn of last century, wolves in America were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near extinction because they represented a threat to ranching and farming.