Yellowstone grizzlies keep endangered species protections

A court ruling disallows sport hunting the bears in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

 

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is republished here with permission.

In a stunning victory for wildlife conservationists and Indigenous tribes – and for bears – a U.S. court ruled on Wednesday that grizzly bears living in the vast Yellowstone ecosystem will remain federally protected and not be subjected to sport hunting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had sought to strip Yellowstone-area grizzlies of safeguards conferred by the Endangered Species Act. This would have allowed the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to permit a limited number of people to obtain hunting licenses, though sport hunting would have remained prohibited within Yellowstone itself.

“We applaud the decision of the 9th circuit court – a triumph of science over politics – in ensuring that Yellowstone grizzly bears are allowed to truly recover and thrive.”

“We applaud the decision of the 9th circuit court – a triumph of science over politics – in ensuring that Yellowstone grizzly bears are allowed to truly recover and thrive,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director for WildEarth Guardians.

WildEarth Guardians was among eight environmental groups, citizens and tribal entities that sued to have the highest level of species protection restored to grizzlies, on the basis that the bears’ recovery had not been assured.

The Greater Yellowstone population of bears is not only globally renowned and the focus of a robust nature-tourism industry, but synonymous with the wild character of Yellowstone, the world’s first national park.

The number of bears in the region has rebounded from about 140 in the 1970s to more than 700 today, and grizzlies have expanded their range to places where they haven’t been in 100 years. Their comeback is considered one of the greatest successes in conservation history.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought to remove endangered species status of Yellowstone-area grizzlies.

Both the states and sportsmen’s groups contend that hunting is therefore on the table. “The grizzly population has more than recovered,” says Tex Janecek, outgoing president of the Montana state chapter of Safari Club International. “We should be having a hunting season and the states should be regulating it. Bears are ranging far beyond the greater Yellowstone region and they are getting in trouble with livestock and putting people at risk. Hunting can be an effective tool.”

Tim Preso of the environmental law firm EarthJustice, who argued the case on behalf of conservation groups and Native American clients, said the federal government and states have been managing grizzlies effectively for more than four decades without needing to enlist hunters to remove bears that get into conflict with people.

Currently there are about 2,000 grizzlies in the Lower 48, a mere fraction of the 50,000 that historically existed south of Canada. They exist today in five separate “island” populations, all disconnected from each other.

Conservationists argue that true recovery means linking bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem to bears inhabiting the so-called northern continental divide ecosystem, along the U.S. border with Canada.

The fate of the grizzly population has hung in the balance for several years. In 2018, a federal judge halted plans by Wyoming to commence its first trophy hunt of grizzlies in 44 years only hours before the first hunters went afield.

This year a half dozen people have been injured by grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone area, none fatally, and nearly every instance has involved a hiker or mountain biker surprising a bear.

Todd Wilkinson is an environmental journalist and the founder of the Mountain JournalEmail High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

Note: Due to an editing error, the 8th circuit court was quoted as having made this decision. It was the 9th circuit court. We regret the error.

This story is published with the Guardian as part of their two-year series, This Land is Your Land, examining the threats facing America’s public lands, with support from the Society of Environmental Journalists

High Country News Classifieds
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • TRUSTEE AND PHILANTHROPY RELATIONS MANGER,
    Come experience Work You Can Believe In! The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is seeking a Trustee and Philanthropy Relations Manager. This position is critical to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    -The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region- The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful, complex, diverse,...
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    Position will remain open until January 31, 2021 Join Our Team! The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit land trust organization dedicated to...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...