A Montana judge restores grizzly bears’ protection, overturns Trump administration’s policy

Judge Dana Christensen ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the effects of the recovery of bears living throughout the country when it chose to remove protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears.

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Image Credit: Fish and Wildlife Service

A Montana judge sided with wildlife groups and overturned a Trump administration’s policy, which ended protection for grizzly bears within Yellowstone National Park in 2017 and was soon going to allow the first grizzly bear hunts in the national park in almost 30 years. Judge Dana Christensen ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the effects of the recovery of bears living throughout the country when it chose to remove protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears.

The grizzly bear population increased from 136 in 1975 to close to 700 currently because of wildlife conservation measures, the BBC reported.

“By delisting the Greater Yellowstone grizzly without analyzing how delisting would affect the remaining members of the lower-48 grizzly designation, the Service failed to consider how reduced protections in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem would impact the other grizzly populations,” Christensen wrote. “Thus, the Service ‘entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem.’”

Conservationists and environmentalists believe that as the Yellowstone grizzly bear population continues to grow, they will soon migrate and “merge with other grizzly populations around the U.S.,” which would help sustain their survival long-term.

“The Service appropriately recognized that the population’s genetic health is a significant factor demanding consideration,” Christensen wrote in a 48-page decision. “However, it misread the scientific studies it relied upon, failing to recognize that all evidence suggests that the long-term viability of the Greater Yellowstone grizzly is far less certain absent new genetic material.”

With plans to hunt 23 grizzly bears in Idaho and Wyoming, the ruling came just days before the planned hunts.

“We’re glad the court sided with science instead of states bent on reducing the Yellowstone grizzly population and subjecting these beloved bears to a trophy hunt,” Bonnie Rice, a senior representative of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “Changing food sources, isolation, inadequate state management plans and other threats that grizzly bears continue to face warrant strong protections until they reach full recovery.”

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