When federal protections were lifted for the Yellowstone-area grizzly bear last year, conservation groups quickly got to work to reverse that decision. One of those attempts was recently thwarted when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they would not restore protections after a months-long review.
Andrea Santarsiere is with the Center for Biological Diversity. She said removing protections for bears in one particular area like Yellowstone is a mistake.
“The problem with doing that is these bears are in isolated population pockets and until they’re actually connected to one another, at the very least, it’s not really recovery,” said Santarsiere.
In an email, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson denied that the plan was a piecemeal approach, and said, “it has been our stated goal to recover bears in these individual ecosystems in order to recover the whole.”
The delisting rule was put up for review after a decision for a case involving gray wolves in the Great Lakes region. A federal appeals court ruled that wildlife officials needed to give more consideration to the relationship between habitat loss and the recovery of a species.
When Yellowstone grizzlies were listed in 1975, there were only 136. That number has grown to about 690. Grizzly bears outside the park remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.