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Judge restores federal protections to grizzly bears

Wyoming and Idaho grizzly hunt canceled

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Yesterday, in a landmark ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen restored federal protections to Yellowstone grizzly bears. He had previously issued a temporary order that blocked the first Lower 48 states’ grizzly bear hunt in 44 years on Aug. 31, stalling the season opener. Now, his ruling cancels the hunts that were slated for Wyoming and Idaho. In his decision, Christensen says that the federal government neglected to “use the best available science” when it made its decision to remove the bears from the threatened species list last year, National Public Radio reports.

While ranchers and others that live within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (where nearly 700 grizzly bears live) supported the delisting and the proposed hunts, others were vocal in their opposition to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision. In fact, six separate lawsuits were filed regarding the delisting and proposed hunts, resulting in Christensen ordering them to be combined into one case.

“Although this Order may have impacts throughout grizzly country and beyond, this case is not about the ethics of hunting, and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter,” Christensen wrote in his ruling.

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He questioned whether FWS overstepped its legal authority in their push to delist grizzlies. The plaintiffs, which included the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Native American groups like the Crow Indian Tribe, argued that delisting the bears in one spot could threaten grizzly bears living in other locations in the Lower 48. After listening to the case, Christensen agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that FWS could not “split up the grizzly population into smaller segments without considering the health of the species as a whole,” according to Montana Public Radio.

“The significance is that now grizzly bears truly have a chance to recover. And their habitat will be protected until they're recovered. And that’s essential," said Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

Following Christensen’s ruling, FWS spokesperson Jennifer Strickland said, “In light of the court’s ruling, management of these grizzly bears returns to the federal government, and we will work with the state and tribes to ensure that this transition proceeds in accordance with the court’s order.”



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Curt B. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 07:44:46 pm

The motives behind the suit frustrate me beyond belief and I don’t like the decision because I don’t think delisting places the population at higher risk and other species need resources under ESA. I’m not a lawyer, but I read the court’s ruling and it appeared to me as though the USFWS lawyers got out played by the opposing team. The plaintiffs picked the right arguments and understood the previous case law well enough to put the court in a position that they were forced to rule they way they did. I’m sure there will be an appeal and I agree with one of the other posts that they’ll eventually be delisted but unfortunately other priority species that aren’t as charismatic will suffer in the meantime. ESA definitely needs some reform to avoid this standard routine of non-stop litigation.

Vance W. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 12:18:31 pm
Anthem AZ

I think there will never be enough of a population for most of the people driving the lawsuit. Bears could be killing little kids in the small communities in Wyoming and roaming the streets and it would be enough. Charismatic mega fauna evoke a lot of emotions that cloud the logical part of the mind.

Sean B. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 11:15:28 am

I like Gary H's idea. Some of these people are going to need first-hand experience to understand. In many areas, a hunter's gunshot is like a dinner bell for the grizz and even if game is taken with a silent bow, any grizz downwind are headed your way.
Also, I'm not an expert but 700 bears in a single ecosystem seems like a "recovered" number that can be managed effectively. I also fail to see how delisting the bears in one area all of a sudden affects all the bears in the lower 48.

Daniel E. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 11:06:29 am

@Dillon H. - Well said unfortunately. I believed that the delisting would hold up this time. Too bad emotions get in the way of reality. Seems to be par for the course these days however.

Dillon H. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 09:38:47 am
Douglas, Wyoming

Dana Christensen is like a Cancer. A Cancer thriving on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. I find it sad a Obama appointed judge living the majority of his life in New York State, stands in the way, over what dozens of actual wildlife Biologists that have been managing this ecosystem for years say. Just like BC and the grizzly ban. This battle will rage for years like state management of the gray wolf. With only one clear looser the bears.

Tanner P. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 09:30:43 am
Lexington, TN

This shouldn’t come as any surprise. It took a long time for the wolf situation to play itself out to where we are today. Just another bump in the road. Delisting will occur. Just gonna take time and more court time.

Gary H. - posted 1 year ago on 09-25-2018 08:08:54 am

I vote that the people that want to place the bears on the protected species list should all have to sign up for a mandatory game retrieval service once a year.

When you shoot an animal in known grizzly territory the person (Being the friends of the grizzlies) registered for that specific day would be required to retrieve your animal from the kill site.

Its like a game of roulette. Instead of bullets, its bears.

I bet some peoples minds would change in a hurry.