HELENA — An appeals court has ruled that U.S. government officials don’t have to take immediate action to protect a pine tree that is a source of food for threatened grizzly bears.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its order Friday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to protect species through the federal Endangered Species Act is limited by “practical realities,” such as scarce funds and limited staff.
The whitebark pine is in decline amid threats of disease, the mountain pine beetle, wildfire and climate change.
The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 said that protections for the high-elevation tree were warranted, but precluded by other priorities. Two conservation groups sued to force the government to immediately list the whitebark pine as an endangered or threatened species.
Canada listed the tree as endangered in 2010.
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