The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to lift hunting restrictions on gray wolves throughout the Lower 48 contiguous states, a move certain to reignite a legal battle going on for decades in the west.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been on the front lines of attempting to halt such a move, and senior attorney Collette Adkins said she was expecting the proposal.

“The Trump administration has announced a plan to remove protections from nearly every wolf in the Lower 48,” said Adkins. “The only ones that would be spared would be the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf out in Arizona and New Mexico. Every other wolf would be turned over to state managers.”

Adkins said it’s premature to pull protections from the wolves at this time.

“Wolf recovery is just far from complete,” she said. “There are places where wolves have mad a lot of progress, like Montana, for example. But, there are so many places where wolves once lived and where there’s ideal wolf habitat but the wolves have not yet recovered, and it’s just too early to pull the plug on wolves.”

Adkins fears what will happen when wolf management is turned over to the states.

“What we do know is that when management is turned over to the state is that thousands of wolves will die, from trophy hunters, trappers and the livestock industry. We want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to abandon this unlawful plan. The courts have time and time again slammed the agency for prematurely remove wolf protections, but now, they’ve come back with their most egregious proposal yet to remove protections from all of the country. They need to come up with a plan to restore wolf populations like they have in the Pacific Northwest.”

Adkins said the Fish and Wildlife Service will put forth a plan within a year to delist all the wolves in the Lower 48 states.

“And, then organizations like mine will sue this plan, and hopefully the ciourts will stop in right away,” she said.