Federal judge: Return grizzly bears in Yellowstone to the endangered species list

According to Ballotpedia, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, appointed by Barack Obama (D), issued an order on Monday returning grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park to the endangered species list. Christensen ruled the federal government failed to consider the impact that delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly would have on other bear populations. He also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in its application of the Endangered Species Act’s threats analysis. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) responded to the ruling, “The decision to return grizzly bears to the list of threatened and endangered species is further evidence that the [Endangered Species Act] is not working as its drafters intended.”

Christensen’s decision blocked Wyoming and Idaho from opening the first public grizzly bear hunts since 1975. Wyoming was planning on issuing licenses for up to 22 bears to be hunted. Idaho was planning on one license.

The ruling came after plaintiffs, including the Crow Indian Tribe, sued the state of Wyoming and the U.S. federal government, challenging the removal of Yellowstone grizzly bears from the endangered species list in 2017. The plaintiffs argued the bears’ survival was still questionable. Supporters of the hunt argued there were too many bears in the area killing livestock and negatively impacting deer and elk populations.

Grizzly bears were first declared a threatened species in 1975 when the bears’ population was estimated to be as low as 136. The species rebounded, and today there are an estimated 700 bears in the Yellowstone region. Requests were made during the Obama administration to remove the bears from protection but were not granted until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Trump administration issued a decision on June 30, 2017.

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