Conservation groups to challenge Yellowstone grizzly delisting - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Conservation groups to challenge Yellowstone grizzly delisting

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(photo credit: US Dept. of the Interior) (photo credit: US Dept. of the Interior)

Three Rocky Mountain conservation groups submitted a Notice of Intent to challenge the decision to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear population from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) threatened species list.

A press release from The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds Project, and Native Ecosystems Council stated:

Particularly problematic in the delisting is the federal government’s decision to create a new ‘Distinct Population Segment’ of grizzly bears in Yellowstone for the purpose of stripping ESA protections in this area.

The decision to de-list the Yellowstone grizzly, effective by the end of July, was announced late last week.

The decision was praised by both Montana and Wyoming congressional delegations, but was quickly condemned by other environmental groups including the Western Environmental Law Center and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

"Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem have lost most of their major food sources over the last several years... Now is not the time to start having a hunting season on grizzly bears” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies said in the statement.

The Notice of Intent signals the onset of a 60-day period required under the ESA where federal agencies have the opportunity to correct legal violations before the lawsuit is filed in court.

“The Yellowstone region is one of the last places where grizzly bear still occupies its natural place as the king of the mountains,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project.

“Turning grizzly bear management over to trigger-happy state agencies without guarantees that the bears will be protected turns back the clock to the dark days when predator killing was the rule and grizzly bear populations were eliminated," Molvar said.

“The courts have ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot cherry-pick relatively stable populations of an endangered or threatened species, and draw a line around them for the purpose of removing protections,” said Dr. Sara Johnson, a wildlife biologist with Native Ecosystems Council.

“Only in Yellowstone and the Crown of the Continent region of Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall wilderness complex are bear populations anywhere near the viable population level. Throughout the rest of the grizzly’s remaining suitable range they are either extirpated or barely clinging to survival," Johnson said.

The groups are represented by Tim Bechtold of the Bechtold Law Firm.

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