Federal Judge Blocks Grizzly Hunt in Yellowstone
A federal district judge ruled to return grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park to the endangered species list, a year and a half after their removal resulted in plans to sell hunting permits for the bears in Wyoming and Idaho.
The decision blocks planned hunts of grizzlies in Wyoming and Idaho.
There are currently 700 grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park (which hosts CDT hikers as well), up from 136 in 1975. It’s a huge conservation success story thanks to the protections the bears received under the Endangered Species Act.
In June 2017, they were delisted from protections for the first time since 1975 after the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined they had recovered from a decline in their major food source and other threats to their population in the last several decades. The decision prompted lawsuits from wildlife advocates and Native American tribes.
The delisting removed the population from the management of the Fish and Wildlife Service and put it into the hands of the state governments of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, where Yellowstone National Park resides. Wyoming and Idaho decided to allow hunting permits on a quota system that would keep the population of the bears at over 600, with Montana choosing not to organize a hunt. They had been planning to issue up to 23 permits this year before a federal judge put a temporary hold on their sale to allow arguments from both sides of the debate to be heard. The hunt would have been the first for grizzlies outside Alaska in almost 30 years.
Opponents argue that the success of the protections does not mean the grizzly population is stable enough to support hunting. There are still far fewer bears than the 50,000 that used to live in the Lower 48 and there are many areas in which their population has not yet bounced back. Proponents of the hunt argue that run-ins between bears and humans have escalated in recent years and their population must be kept in check.
US District Judge Dana Christensen issued two delays before making his ruling. His decision has been closely monitored by the Fish and Wildlife Service as it considers the removal of federal protections on the grizzly populations in Montana’s Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which currently house about 1,000 grizzly bears.
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