Grizzly Bears Must Go Back On The Endangered Species List, Fed Judge Rules

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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A federal judge placed Yellowstone’s population of grizzly bears back on the Endangered Species List Monday, reversing a decision by the Department of the Interior (DOI) to delist the species.

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen, ends plans by Idaho and Wyoming wildlife officials to hold grizzly hunts to manage their growing populations of bears. Christensen delayed the hunts indefinitely on August 31, a day before they were to begin, after a coalition of environmental groups sued the DOI. The environmentalists claimed the grizzly still needed federal protection to survive. (RELATED: Grizzly Bears Are Off The Endangered Species List)

“Congress intended that, when a species was recovered, it would be removed from federal listing and management would be turned back over to State jurisdiction,” Mountain States Legal Foundation president William Perry Pendley said in a statement. “Not only does this ruling frustrate the will of Congress; it also exposes westerners who defend themselves against attacking grizzlies to years of federal prosecution, fines, and possible imprisonment.”

The Obama administration attempted to delist the grizzly in 2016. Bear deaths had increased to about 55 that year from 28 in 2014 due to bears fighting each other and other species more often as their populations grew, experts told Reuters. Ranchers and farmers in the area are growing concerned as bear attacks on livestock become more common

Environmentalists said the recent spike in grizzly mortality justified the species need for continued federal protection.

“With grizzly deaths spiking, now is not the time to declare the great bear recovered and federal protections unnecessary,” Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso said in a statement announcing the lawsuit against the DOI. “The grizzly is a major part of what makes the region in and around Yellowstone National Park so special and unique. We should not be taking a gamble with the grizzly’s future.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the bears in June 2017, temporarily ending 42 straight years of federal protection for the species. The grizzly population around Yellowstone National Park had grown from 136 bears in 1975 to roughly 700 in 2017.

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