Yesterday, a Federal District Court Judge in Montana vacated a 2017 rule promulgated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that ended Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Effective immediately grizzly bears are again listed as threatened under the ESA. Accordingly, the grizzly bear hunting season authorized for this fall is cancelled.
“I am disappointed with yesterday’s decision,” said Governor Mead. “Grizzly bear recovery should be viewed as a conservation success story. Due to Wyoming’s investment of approximately $50 million for recovery and management, grizzly bears have exceeded every scientifically established recovery criteria in the GYE since 2003. Numbers have risen from as few as 136 bears when they were listed in 1975, to more than 700 today.”
“Biologists correctly determined grizzly bears no longer needed ESA protections,” he noted. “The decision to return grizzly bears to the list of threatened and endangered species is further evidence that the ESA is not working as its drafters intended. Congress should modernize the ESA so we can celebrate successes and focus our efforts on species in need.”
“This is unfortunate,” said Scott Talbott, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Game and Fish is a strong proponent of all wildlife management being led by people who live in this state and having management decisions made at the local level. We will do our part to ensure the shift back to federal management will be seamless, just as we did in 2009 when grizzly bears were returned to the endangered species list after having been under state management for just over a year.”
History of grizzly delisting:
In 2007, the FWS delisted grizzly bears in the GYE. A federal judge reinstated protections in 2009 after finding that the FWS did not adequately consider the impacts of the decline of whitebark pine nuts – a grizzly bear food source. In 2013, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team determined that the reduction in whitebark pine nuts did not significantly impact grizzly bears and again recommended delisting. In 2017, the FWS published a rule delisting grizzly bears in the GYE. States gave additional assurance regarding long-term viability. Wyoming has adopted a Grizzly Bear Management Plan, that is has been implementing since delisting in 2017. That document is available on the Game and Fish Department website.