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Grizzlies stay protected! Tribes, Conservationists Win; States, Feds Lose

Photo credit: Flickr/Fidelis Oroszco

When the Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2017 that it planned to remove Endangered Species Act protection from the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears, we vowed to fightToday, we won! 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today that affirmed a 2018 District Court order that blocked the de-listing of the great bears and kept them listed as a ‘threatened species’ under the ESA, retaining federal protections and blocking sport hunting of the bears in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

This was a big win for science as well, as the court clearly recognized that the Fish and Wildlife Service was bowing to political pressure from the states in stripping grizzlies of their ESA protections.

The Circuit Court ruled, “[B]ecause there were no concrete, enforceable mechanisms in place to ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly, the district court correctly concluded that the 2017 Rule was arbitrary and capricious in that regard.” The decision also plainly states, “FWS’s decision to drop the commitment to recalibration in the conservation strategy violated the ESA because it was the result of political pressure by the states rather than having been based on the best scientific and commercial data.”

This is great victory and Western Watersheds Project members are owed a big thanks for helping to carry this fight. It was a hard battle, and we and our coplaintiffs Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council were one of five conservation and tribal plaintiff groups (plus one individual) who sued to reverse the de-listing of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Congratulations to all who worked so hard on behalf of grizzly protection!

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