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BABBITT GIVES WOLF PLAN FINAL OK

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Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has given final approval to a plan to reintroduce the endangered gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park after a 70-year absence.

Initially, about 30 wolves will be collared and monitored in Canada and then gradually reintroduced to Yellowstone and Idaho beginning this fall.The goal is to have at least 100 wolves at each location by the year 2002. About 60 wolves already have been found in northwestern Montana, having migrated from Canada. That wolf population also would be increased under the government plan.

The once-thriving wolf population was killed off in much of the northern Rocky Mountains in the 1920s because of concern for livestock. Many ranchers still dread the predatory animals' return.

But Babbitt said last month that the plan has been met with "fairly widespread - if not entire - acceptance" in the West. It has been discussed at more than 100 public meetings.

A wolf can be killed if found attacking livestock on private land.