Yesterday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced they were officially placing grizzlies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) back on the endangered species list. Back in 2017 the USFWS removed the bears from the endangered list and stripped federal protection, arguing that the grizzlies in the GYE had sufficiently recovered in great enough numbers to allow limited hunts of the animals. Ranchers too, a powerful interest in Western politics, argued that grizzlies were a threat to livestock and as their numbers grew, so too would that threat.

Almost immediately after that 2017 decision, plans were announced to resume hunting of that bear population. Lawsuits were quickly filed by groups like the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Native American groups including the Crow Indian Tribe. Bear conservationists argued that while their populations had indeed grown since placed on the endangered list, they were nowhere near historic averages for the animals and that hunting would be a needless check on further growth.

Last September, a federal judge in Missoula, Montana, agreed and determined that the USFWS had overstated the stability of the population and should restore endangered species status to the GYE grizzlies. The USFWS appealed that decision; that appeal is currently before the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

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This week, however, the USFWS finally moved to make it official that the bears are back on the endangered species list. Protections had been in place since the Montana’s judge ruling last fall, though this move may signify that the USFWS has accepted the returned status is likely to stay.

Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s member of the House of Representatives commented that the USFWS decision to make the endangered status official once again was the “result of excessive litigation pursued by radical environmentalists intent on destroying our Western way of life.”

Photo: Janko Ferlic

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