BILLINGS, Mont. -- Wildlife advocates have petitioned federal officials to reclassify gray wolves as a threatened species, hoping to retain at least some protections that lawmakers in Congress want to repeal.

Wolves are classified as endangered across most of the lower 48 states except the Northern Rockies. "Endangered" is a more protective listing than "threatened." Brett Hartl with the Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday's petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to downgrade the animals' status is meant to pre-empt Congressional intervention.

Lawmakers from the western Great Lakes and Wyoming have proposed lifting federal protections entirely in their states. That would put wolves under state control and allow hunting to resume after it was barred by the courts. Spokesman Gavin Shire says the Fish and Wildlife Service will review the petition.