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Environmental groups win legal challenge over grizzly killing quota for grazing in the Upper Green

Environmental groups won a legal challenge over grazing plans on federal lands in western Wyoming. An appeals court asked federal officials to reconsider how many female grizzly bears in the area can be killed for preying on livestock in the Upper Green River area.

In 2019, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service renewed grazing permits on about 170,000 acres in the Upper Green River area. The agencies said up to 72 grizzlies could be killed over a 10 year period if they got into conflicts – double the number killed over the previous 20 years for the same reason.

Environmental groups sued, arguing wildlife managers aren’t considering female grizzlies. Andrea Zaccardi, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of five groups in the suit, said females are especially critical for the overall bear’s population numbers since they have slow reproductive rates. Grizzlies are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“Killing a high number of female grizzly bears, when we know there are female grizzly bears with cubs in the project area, could dramatically affect the population,” Zaccardi said.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is asking federal officials to redo their plans, this time with a special consideration for female bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Environmental groups welcomed the ruling, while federal officials have yet to provide comment on it.

“We were excited about the court's decision. and especially their recognition that female grizzly bears need special protection,” Zaccardi said. “I think we would like to see the livestock industry implement more non lethal deterrents.”

Livestock grazing will be permitted to continue while officials revise their management plans. Conflicts between wildlife and agriculture commonly happen in this part of the Wind River Range, partly because of population growth of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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