Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list. On Wednesday, wildlife and tribal groups filed a lawsuit to stop the delisting.
In the lawsuit, the Northern Cheyenne tribe, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Park Conservation Association say it’s too early to lift grizzly protections since climate change has reduced its natural food sources, like the white bark pine and cutthroat trout. The National Park Conservation Association’s Yellowstone Program Manager Stephanie Adams said as bears go hunting for different foods there are more human conflicts and that’s reducing the bear’s population. She said the population has dropped from 757 bears in 2014 to 695 in 2016.
Adams disagreed with those that say there is no more room for them outside the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, saying there’s plenty of space in national parks.
“The bears in Yellowstone and the bears from around Glacier, they’re so close to touching noses and it would be a shame for us to do anything right now that would prevent them from naturally connecting.”
Adams said she wishes the federal government had consulted her group so they could point out these issues before the decision was made to delist grizzlies.
Northern Cheyenne Vice President Conrad Fisher felt the same way. He said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife didn’t reach out to his tribe until after the decision had been made, even though rules dictate they be consulted in advance.
“Part of consultation is to be a stakeholder in this decision because of the cultural and spiritual significance of this particular species,” said Fisher.
Fisher said he would have liked Fish and Wildlife to discuss the idea of reintroducing the species on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southern Montana. Many other tribes have also expressed an interested in such an idea. Fisher says this would help the species bridge the two areas where it is currently isolated, in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.