Federal Court Upholds Grizzly Protections

   07.09.20

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday to uphold grizzly protections for bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park.

The ruling from a three-judge panel came after proposals to have a strictly regulated grizzly hunting season in Wyoming and Idaho were blocked in 2018 by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, who said the animal’s genetic health remained in doubt, and officials would need to determine if the removal of grizzly protections in and around Yellowstone would harm other grizzly populations.

The appeals court agreed Christensen went too far in requiring a review of those remnant populations, but ultimately sided with wildlife advocates on the genetics issue. The odd part is they said the government had not done enough to ensure hunting and other pressures don’t reduce the population size to where the bears genetic health could be harmed. But as previously stated in this  OutdoorHub article, the most important – and overlooked – aspect of the whole debate is the fact that this proposed hunting season is very limited and structured to take specific animals with consideration of the greater grizzly population (around 2,000 bears) still in mind.

The initial plan permits hunters to harvest – at most – 23 bears in total across both states. To ensure this, officials set up an incredibly structured plan with strict guidelines in place for hunters to follow.

Andrea Zaccardi, senior attorney at Center for Biological Diversity, said this latest appeals court decision is “a tremendous victory for all who cherish Yellowstone’s grizzly bears.” She then doubled down with her statement saying the hunting of grizzly bears around America’s most treasured national park should “never again be an option.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called the court’s decision “flat wrong.”

He said in a statement, “The grizzly bear is fully recovered in Wyoming. That’s a fact. The last three presidential administrations – both Republican and Democrat – have determined the grizzly is recovered. It’s well past time for the grizzly bear in Wyoming to come off of the Endangered Species List. Wyoming – not an activist court – should determine how the bear is managed. The state has a strong, science-based management plan and it should be given a chance to succeed. ”

Background Information:

On March 3, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed to delist the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) from the federal threatened species list. According to the USFWS, “The Yellowstone grizzly bear population has rebounded from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 or more today. Grizzly bears have more than doubled their range since the mid-1970s and now occupy more than 22,500 square miles of the ecosystem. Stable population numbers for grizzly bears for more than a decade also indicate that the GYE is at or near its carrying capacity for the bears.”

On June 30, 2017, the USFWS published the final rule to delist the grizzly bear in the GYE. The USFWS noted, “The participating States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and Federal agencies have adopted the necessary post-delisting plans and regulations, which adequately ensure that the GYE population of grizzly bears remains recovered.”

On September 25, 2018, a federal judge made the decision to place the grizzly bear in Wyoming back on the endangered species list.

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