wolfPhoto: Thomas Roche via Flicker

Wolf-people, give a howl for your lupine brethren, who lose federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in much of the northern Rocky Mountains and upper Midwest today.

The Obama administration, in one of its least popular moves with environmentalists, upheld a Bush era decision that gray wolves have returned from the brink of extinction and no longer require federal protection. That decision took effect today, opening the gate for hunting in Idaho and Montana, which share a population of some 1,300 wolves.

Wildlife groups have filed notice that they will sue to overturn the decision, saying state management plans don’t provide enough protection for the species that was listed as endangered in 1974.

Last Friday I proposed that “Save the wolves” campaigns typify a strain of old-school environmentalism that is being swallowed by the much broader movement against climate change. The poster-species for the new environmentalism, the polar bear, faces its own day of reckoning this week:

Later in the week, the legal status of polar bears will become clearer when the Obama administration must decide whether to overturn a last-minute Bush move that denied the arctic mammals key protections under the Endangered Species Act. Acknowledging that the polar bear is threatened by a melting habitat, Bush officials still ruled that endangered species protections cannot apply to causes originating outside of their habitat (in other words, the greenhouse gas emissions heating up the polar regions). Obama has until May 9 to overturn the decision; otherwise, it stands.

Greenwire has a piece on the behind-the-scenes tussle over the polar bear decision; look for more on Grist on this later in the week.

Oh, and it’s also a big week for a little mountainous mammal, the American Pika, whose high-elevation habitat faces climate disruption. KQED’s Climate Watch reports on the pika’s prospects for protection, which ride on decisions from the courts and the Fish and Wildlife Service.