The Bush administration Thursday proposed removing gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list, saying they have recovered to the point that federal protection is no longer needed.

The proposal covers Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where roughly 3,800 wolves live, and a half-dozen neighboring states that have no wolves but could as they expand their territory.

Under the federal proposal, state and tribal governments would take responsibility for ensuring that wolf populations remain healthy. Minnesota and Wisconsin have developed management plans that have been reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Michigan is updating its plan.

"Our proposal to delist the gray wolf indicates our confidence that those who will assume management of the species will safeguard its long-term survival," outgoing U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also proposed removing the gray wolf from the endangered list in 2004, but a federal judge struck down the plan last year.

The agency will conduct public hearings before making a final decision. The process could take up to a year.