U.S. court orders federal protection for grizzly bears in northern Rocky mountains

The first grizzly hunts planned in Lower 48 states in the U.S. in three decades have been blocked by a U.S. judge who has already twice delayed the hunts.

Wyoming and Idaho was about to allow hunters to kill up to 23 bears beginning this fall after an order from the Trump administration.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Montana ruled Monday to block the hunts which would have been the first in U.S. outside Alaska since 1991.

Christensen wrote in his ruling that the case was “not about the ethics of hunting.” Rather, he said, it was about whether federal officials adequately considered threats to the species’ long-term recovery when they lifted protections for more than 700 bears living around Yellowstone National Park.

In the judge’s view, the answer was no.

He noted that an estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous U.S. and said it would be “simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst” not to consider the status of grizzlies outside the Yellowstone region, one of the few areas where they have bounced back.

State and federal officials reacted with disappointment. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said the ruling provided further evidence of flaws in the Endangered Species Act and the need for Congress to make changes.

Effective immediately grizzly bears are again listed as threatened under the ESA. Accordingly, the grizzly bear hunting season authorized for this fall is cancelled.

Mead said he was disappointed in the decision and grizzly bear recovery should be viewed as a conservation success story. Biologists, Mead said in a statement, have determined grizzly bears no longer need ESA protections.

Numbers have risen from as few as 136 bears when they were listed in 1975, to more than 700 today.”

In 2007, the FWS delisted grizzly bears in the GYE. A federal judge reinstated protections in 2009 after fin

A bid to remove protections for the region’s grey wolves ran into similar legal problems last decade. In that case, Congress intervened in 2011 to strip safeguards from the animals through legislation, opening the way to public wolf hunts.

Pressure to lift protections on bears and allow hunting has increased in recent years as the number of conflicts between bears and people increased. Most of those conflicts involve attacks on livestock but occasionally bears attack people, such as a Wyoming hunting guide killed earlier this month by a pair of grizzly bears.

The ruling marks a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued when the U.S. Interior Department last year revoked federal protections. They argued that the animals face continued threats from climate change and loss of habitat.


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