MISSOULA, Mont. – A federal judge today restored Endangered Species Act protections to grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem after they were prematurely and illegally delisted last year. This victory means that the grizzlies will remain protected as a threatened species pending additional scientific analysis and a more comprehensive plan for their recovery.
“The Trump administration wants to see Yellowstone’s grizzlies taken off the Endangered Species list so they can be hunted, killed, and mounted on the walls of wealthy trophy hunters like Trump’s sons” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “But grizzly bears remain a tiny fraction of their former population and are living in an even tinier fraction of their former range. Due to increased development and lack of connected habitat, it’s safe to say the grizzly bear isn’t really recovered yet. These incredible animals deserve better from humans than a rush to the taxidermist.”
“Imagine an isolated town of 700 people that does not mix with the outside world. After a few generations every would be cousins. They would all be inbreed. The same thing is happening to Yellowstone grizzlies. They can’t be recovered until their population is reconnected to the grizzly bear population around Glacier Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness area,” Garrity said.
The Trump administration delisted Yellowstone’s grizzlies in June 2017, immediately prompting five lawsuits from tribal and conservation plaintiffs. Despite the small populations of the bear, Idaho and Wyoming had planned to open hunting seasons for grizzlies starting September 1, 2018, but those plans were thwarted by an emergency temporary restraining order granted in the case two weeks ago. Today’s ruling offers a longer-term stop to the planned killing.
“Americans love the grizzly bears and want to see them meaningfully recovered before they lose their Endangered Species Act protections,” said Josh Osher, Montana Director of Western Watersheds Project. “We couldn’t be happier to see federal protection restored by today’s ruling, which affirms that sound science and the rule of law still trump political meddling in species recovery decisions.”
The original grizzly bear recovery plan wisely required that the Yellowstone population be connected with other grizzly bear populations before being delisted, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expedited delisting despite the geographic and genetic isolation still facing the subpopulation. The Yellowstone bears are threatened by a changing climate and precarious food supplies, and their habitat has been encroached upon by commercial activities such as livestock grazing, which often results in lethal “management” for the native predator.
“These bears and today’s ruling are delivering a powerful message to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Dr. Sara Johnson, Director of Native Ecosystems Council. “You can’t ignore them and their need for range expansion and connectivity in the West.”
“The harsh reality is that far more grizzlies have been killed in the last year than delisting proponents predicted — and that trend is not likely to stop since there are more developments, more roads, and more livestock in their native habitat every day. Humans are far and away the main cause of grizzly bear mortality and when you factor in the changes to their traditional food sources brought about by global warming, we are a long way from guaranteeing grizzlies will be around for future generations. We are grateful for Judge Christensen’s careful and in-depth review of the facts and on-the-land realities and extremely pleased that our efforts to fully recover the iconic grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem were rewarded by his ruling today.”