Species far from recovered, wildlife advocates say
Once again, the U.S. court system will have the final say over an endangered species decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservation groups say they are preparing to sue the agency over its recent decision to take Montana’s grizzly bears off the endangered species list.
Wildlife advocates say the the decision violated the Endangered Species Act because grizzlies have not been recovered across a substantial portion of their historic range, and still face threats from habitat loss, poaching and a dwindling supply of food. The proposal would hand management of the species over to individual states. Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho all plan to permit grizzly trophy hunting.
“The Service is putting politics ahead of science and abdicating its fundamental duty to ensure grizzly bears are restored across their native habitats in the American West,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Truly recovering grizzly bears requires more than making Yellowstone National Park into a proverbial zoo: bears need protections across their range.”
“It’s too early to remove protections for the isolated grizzlies of Yellowstone,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We’re seeing more grizzlies move out from Yellowstone but the best science suggests this is likely due to hunger, not overcrowding. The bears are likely looking for new food sources, following the steep decline in white bark pine seeds and cutthroat trout.
At last count, roughly 690 grizzly bears resided in the Greater Yellowstone region in 2016, down from 2015’s count of approximately 717 bears. The last two years had near record-breaking grizzly mortality, with at least 127 bears killed since 2015 (including eight documented deaths thus far in 2017, 58 dead bears in 2016, and 61 dead grizzlies in 2015).