“I’m sorry we’ve got you lined up with numbers like the state penitentiary,” drawled Lesley Travers, the hearing’s third-party moderator. “But, it’s the only way we can ensure everyone gets their chance to speak and be heard.” That, Travers noted Tuesday, June 25, was the only reasonable way to conduct business when there’s one and a half hours of allotted speaking time and 81 speakers registered. Brainerd played host to the only public hearing in the nation devoted to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to delist the gray wolf from endangered species protections. Representatives of the service have characterized the decision as a matter of scientific analysis -- populations of gray wolves in the lower 48 have rebounded since initial placement on the endangered species list in 1978, establishing a more robust presence in the northern portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as the northern Rockies in the west, to the tune of more than 6,000 animals. These numbers exceed combined goals for both the Rockies and western Great Lakes populations. The delistment does not include vulnerable red wolf populations or Mexican gray wolf populations in North Carolina and the southwestern United States, respectively. Delistment would strip gray wolves of most federal protections and leave management of the species’ populations to state agencies. This would likely entail a renewal of wolf hunting seasons after decades of bans to that effect with some exceptions, though the species would be monitored for adverse population decreases for another five years as a provision of the Endangered Species Act.