Yellowstone Grizzlies Stay Under Endangered Species Act Protections

Jul 8, 2020

Credit USGS Photo - Frank VanManen

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold a federal judge’s 2018 decision to keep Yellowstone grizzly bears under Endangered Species Act protections. 

Back in 2018, a federal judge restored Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) had removed them from the threatened species list the year before. 

Andrea Zaccardi, senior attorney at Center for Biological Diversity, said this latest appeals court decision is a victory. 

“We think grizzly bears still have a way to go before they're fully recovered. And the court agreed with us on that point,” she said. 

Defendants included the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as well as farmers and ranchers like Upper Green River rancher Albert Sommers. 

“Whether we [state of Wyoming] have met certain technicalities in this case or not I’m not sure,” said Sommers. “But I do believe the bear numbers have reached the level they should be delisted.” 

The appeals court had disagreed with several technicalities on how the USFW went about delisting the bears. Those included not accounting for genetic viability and the delisting impact on other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states. 

“From our point of view, wildlife service should not be removing federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears until grizzly bears as a whole are recovered from lower 48 states,” said Zaccardi.

Defendants argued that the 700 plus population has recovered successfully, and are expanding outside of their habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

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