MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed off Friday on the decision by Voyageurs National Park to let snowmobilers ride on 11 bays that had been closed to protect the park's wolves.
Voyageurs officials reopened the bays to snowmobilers at the start of the season, but the Fish and Wildlife Service said in December that its biologists needed to approve the decision. The bays remained open pending the decision, when ice conditions permitted.
On Friday, the service announced it supported the park's plan. New studies found that "bay closure has no biological significance to a healthy gray wolf population at Voyageurs National Park," said Dan Stinnett of the agency's Twin Cities field office.
Voyageurs Superintendent Barbara West said she learned of the decision last week.
The Park Service closed the bays in 1992 because it was believed wolves used the frozen areas to prey on deer. Snowmobilers sued to block the closures, but in 1996, a federal judge and later a federal appeals court affirmed the park's authority to close the bays.
Some environmentalists oppose reopening the bays to snowmobilers.
The Voyageurs Regional National Park Association and 10 other environmental groups plan to file a lawsuit by the end of February to protest the reopening. The group already sent a notice of intent to sue to U.S. Interior Secretary Gayle Norton.
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