ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Environmentalists are concerned that a proposed spending plan for the U.S. Interior Department calls for a study to determine whether Mexican gray wolves are a genetically distinct subspecies.

A report accompanying the legislation suggests federal wildlife officials would be required to determine the validity of the Mexican wolves’ designation as a subspecies of the gray wolf. Red wolves also would be reviewed.

The federal agency would have a year to conduct its work and submit a report to Congress.

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity criticized the proposal as a strategy to strip the wolves of protections. He says a handful of genetic studies done since 1996 have confirmed the Mexican wolf as a valid subspecies.

There are at least 113 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.