A federal judge has reinstated federal protection for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region blocking planned hunts in Idaho and Wyoming.
On Sept. 24, 2018, Federal U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen disregarded the advice of numbers of wildlife biologists and conservation experts when he ruled to overturn the March 2017 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to delist the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. This ruling was made despite the fact that the region’s grizzly population has recovered and no longer meets the definition of threatened or endangered, according to ESA standards.
DSC is among several conservation groups to raise their voices in opposition to this decision.
“We stand for wildlife conservation, and this ruling flies in the face of sound science-based principles,” said DSC Executive Director Corey Mason, Certified Wildlife Biologist™. “Anti-hunters are influencing the courts and punishing due process to push their agendas. We do not want this disturbing trend to hinder grizzly conservation in the Greater Yellowstone region.”
With a population of just 136, grizzlies were classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, putting the bears under federal recovery process. When the grizzly population reached an estimated 700 in 2017, the USFWS delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears, extending management authority to the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho individually.
After dealing with delisting legal issues in the past, Montana decided to postpone consideration for a 2018 hunt, while Wyoming officials had planned to allow hunters to take up to 22 bears this fall and Idaho planned a hunt for one single bear. Two days before the hunting seasons were set to open, Judge Christensen issued a 14-day temporary restraining order after a hearing on August 30 regarding the grizzly bear’s ESA protections. This ruling disabled any implementation or authorization of the hunt by the Wyoming and Idaho game departments.
With the current ruling from the judge, the Wyoming Fish and Game Department has suspended the grizzly bear hunting season pending further direction.
This newest ruling follows a 2007 attempt by the Department of Interior to delist Yellowstone grizzlies, a decision that was also contested by environmental groups and later overturned by the federal courts.
Federal and state officials have said they are contemplating how they will proceed and whether to appeal.