The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed changing the status of wolves in the Western U.S. from endangered to threatened, a move that could signal the eventual delisting of the species. Management of the wolves would then be turned over to Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The wolf was nearly extinct a half-century ago and was declared endangered in 47 of the lower 48 states in 1974. Recovery efforts picked up speed in the 1990s, when wolves were transplanted into central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, and the population has been increasing rapidly in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming ever since. Nonetheless, conservationists and some state officials are unhappy that today’s announcement covers all Western states — even though wolves are still nonexistent in the rest of the West. Fish and Wildlife officials defended the move, saying the Endangered Species Act does not require a species to be returned to its entire historic range before federal protections can be removed.