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Washington — The U.S. House on Friday voted 196-180 to pass a bill that would remove endangered species protections for the gray wolf in the lower 48 states.

The Manage Our Wolves Act would also reissue a 2011 rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that delisted the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes, including Michigan.

Opponents, including Michigan U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, said the threat to gray wolves remains, and they should be continued to be protected.

"Despite claims made by my colleagues across the aisle, gray wolves play a critical role in keeping ecosystems healthy and balanced, including across Michigan and the Great Lakes region," she said on the House floor.

Dingell, D-Dearborn, noted that officials just this week announced a gray wolf relocated this fall from the Minnesota mainland to Isle Royale National Park in Michigan has died.

That relocation was part of a project to rebuild the wolf population on the Lake Superior island, where it had dropped in recent years.

Several Democratic lawmakers said the wolf measure is expected to die in the Senate.

During debate Friday, Republicans said the wolf population has recovered and is expanding, and that control of wolf management should be returned to the states.

GOP members cited concerns about the economic impact on ranchers whose livestock has fallen prey to wolves. 

"This is not about a hatred or fear of predators. This is about actually recognizing that the Endangered Species Act has done its job, and it's time for the wolf to be delisted," said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Washington.

"I regularly hear from people that are seeing wolves around their property. People that can not defend themselves without it being a felony. Eastern Washington knows better how to manage their land and wildlife than someone sitting in a cubicle in Washington, D.C."   

Democrats objected to the legislation, arguing that, while its population has grown, the wolf still faces threats from hunters and other interests. 

Dingell said the House measure "seriously" undermines scientific integrity by removing scientists from the decision-making process to delist the wolf.

"Scientists, not Congress, should be making listing or delisting decisions," she said. 

She also said the delisting of the gray wolf would skip the rule-making process and would be subject to neither public comment nor judicial review.

Dingell's husband, retired Rep. John Dingell, authored the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law in 1973.

An environmental group, the Center for Biological Diversity, this week sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve federal protections for gray wolves and to develop a national recovery plan for the species.

The Associated Press contributed 

mburke@detroitnews.com 

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