CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., says removing wolves in the Rocky Mountain region from protection under the Endangered Species Act should continue as planned.

Five members of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Dec. 17 and said states "hostile to wolf conservation" could reduce the number of wolves in the region from 1,500 to "as few as 300." The committee's chairman, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., signed the letter.

Barrasso took issue with the letter in a statement Tuesday.

"These congressmen don't even live in our time zone," Barrasso said. "They have no concept of the damage gray wolves do."

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have written plans for managing wolves after the species' removal from endangered species protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally approved the last plan — Wyoming's, which remains the subject of a lawsuit the state filed against the federal agency in 2004 — in December.

Barrasso said wolf management needs to be under state and not federal control.

"This is a Wyoming concern that requires a Wyoming solution. It does not require interference from Washington," he said.

"We cannot lose sight of the real goal behind the Endangered Species Act: recovery and delisting. This is an issue that directly affects the lives of Wyoming ranchers, energy producers and sportsmen."