(LAKEWOOD, CO)- The on again, off again legal fight over federal protection for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region is back “on” again, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces it’s restoring the bears to the “threatened species” list.
Last summer, a coalition of conservation and tribal groups sued the agency for its 2017 decision to remove the grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the threatened species list. The feds, and the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho argued the Yellowstone population had reached the point where federal protection was no longer warranted. In fact, Wyoming and Idaho moved to implement hunting as a means of managing grizzly populations.
But U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen vacated the de-listing, saying the Service had “failed to make a reasoned decision”, faulting biologists for not fully considering how removing protection for the Yellowstone grizzlies could impact bear populations elsewhere in the Northern Rockies.
In December the agency had moved to challenge Christensen’s ruling, but today announced it would put the bears back on the list, following his court order. In the statement, the Service acknowledged there is “widespread public support for grizzly conservation”, pledging to continue to work with the states, tribes and local agencies on bear management and research.
The ruling has no effect on grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in Northern Montana, and the other areas where the bears have continued to have federal protection.