Groups Challenge U.S. Plan to Lift Grizzly Bear Protections

The groups say the decision to lift grizzly bear protections this summer is flawed

By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press
Grizzly Bear. Adobe Stock

BOISE, Idaho — At least three different legal challenges were launched Friday against the U.S. government’s decision to lift protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area that have been in place for more than 40 years.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society, and WildEarth Guardians are among those challenging the plan to lift restrictions this summer.

“The rule removing federal protections for America’s beloved Yellowstone grizzly bears is a political decision that is deeply flawed,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The federal government announced last week its plan to lift grizzly bear protections and made it official Friday by filing its decision in the Federal Register. That prompted the various groups to send 60-day notices of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a required step in the legal process.

Some of the groups say the decision is wrong because it only involves Yellowstone grizzlies rather than viewing the population in the West as a whole. The groups also say the federal government’s analysis of grizzly bear mortality — as bears switch to a meat-based diet as climate change reduces other food sources— is deficient.

“We should not be taking a gamble with the grizzly’s future,” said Timothy Preso, an Earthjustice attorney representing some of the groups.

The U.S. Department of the Interior on Friday referred questions about the legal action to the U.S. Department of Justice. Mark Abueg, public affairs specialist at the Justice Department, in an email to The Associated Press said the agency declined to comment.

Grizzlies in all continental U.S. states except Alaska have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, when just 136 bears roamed in and around Yellowstone. There are now an estimated 700 grizzlies in the area that includes northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana and eastern Idaho, leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the population has recovered.