Conservation Groups File Notice of Intent to Sue over Grazing Decision that Allows up to 72 Grizzly Bears to be Killed in Wyoming’s Upper Green River

For Immediate Release, January 21, 2020

Contact:

John Persell, Western Watersheds Project, (503) 896-6472; jpersell@westernwatersheds.org

Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies (406)459-5936; wildrockies@gmail.com

Jason Christensen, Yellowstone to Uintas Connection; (435)881-6917; jason@yellowstoneuintas.org

 

Conservation Groups File Notice of Intent to Sue over Grazing Decision that Allows up to 72 Grizzly Bears to be Killed in Wyoming’s Upper Green River

PINEDALE, Wyo.— Today, conservation groups provided notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service for authorizing the killing of 72 grizzly bears for the sake of livestock grazing operations in Wyoming’s Upper Green River. Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection assert that the October 2019 decision violates the Endangered Species Act.

The problematic decision by the Bridger-Teton National Forest continues livestock grazing on six Upper Green River allotments spanning 170,641 acres of public land while admitting that in doing so, grizzly bears would suffer. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that the projected deaths of 72 grizzlies due to the grazing would not jeopardize grizzly bears’ continued existence despite the current low population of 718 bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

“It’s an astounding decision by the Forest Service since federal district courts have ruled twice now that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem still need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act,’ said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “There’s simply no way to justify the killing of 72 grizzly bears due to conflict with domestic livestock on public lands.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is relying on voluntary conservation measures to to minimize conflicts between grizzlies and livestock, which typically end up with bears being killed,” said John Persell, staff attorney with Western Watersheds Project. “It also fails to consider the impacts of killing female grizzlies and the effect of that on the whole population.

Scientists consider the protection of female bears to be crucial to the recovery of grizzlies. The potential loss of so many females could be devastating to the population trajectory of the species because female grizzly bears do not typically give birth until five years of age. Because cubs stay with their mother for up to two years, a female only gives birth a handful of times in her lifetime.

To prevent the population from backsliding away from recovery, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Science Team established specific mortality limits for independent females, independent males, and dependent young. The Service’s biological opinion offered no analysis of whether 72 grizzlies killed over ten years will trigger these mortality thresholds in conjunction with other grizzly bear deaths in the region.

“In essence, the Forest Service has been and would continue to manage this huge grazing allotment area to the detriment of wildlife, water, fish, soil and native because of overgrazing by livestock,” added Jason Christensen, Director of Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.  “Natural diversity, including its myriad ecological relationships, is negatively impacted by livestock grazing, which includes accelerating succession of aspen and increasing the fire hazard in conifer forests.”

Following the 60 days provided by the coalition’s notice, its members will consider the next appropriate legal steps, including litigation. The notices can be found online here and here.

The Upper Green River flows through the ancestral lands of the Kohogue people, also known as the Green River Shoshone.

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