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
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Western Slope Conservation Center Paonia, CO WSCC seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking and a creative problem-solver. Position Summary: The Executive Director leads...
  • ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT/HOSPITALITY SERVICES
    Seasoned ranch manager of award-winning conservation ranch seeking position as nature reserve/resort or ranch manager. Visit philipmoonwalker.com for resume and certifications. Contact: [email protected]
  • PART-TIME OREGON GRANT WRITER
    Help advance rights for people, communities, and nature - Part-time grant writer. The Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) has been active over the last six...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Utah Public Lands Program Director Location: Southern Utah Position: Full Time (40 hours per week) Supervisor: Conservation Director About us: The Grand Canyon...
  • FSBO PROPERTY-SOUTHEAST ARIZONA
    Located in an area steeped in history, this gentleman's ranch sits at the entrance to the renowned Cave Creek Canyon. Enjoy picturesque views of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • LAND CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    JOIN OUR TEAM! The New Mexico Land Conservancy in Santa Fe is seeking a Land Conservation Project Manager who will work to protect land and...
  • HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NP
    Comfortable home at foot of Boulder Mountain, on one fenced acre. Amazing views!
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.