Breaking! Conservation Groups Are Not Messing Around To Protect Grizzlies In The Wild; They Challenge New Law That Would Allow Hunting In Wyoming

Conservation groups filed a notice of intent yesterday to sue over a new state law that would give the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission authority to manage grizzlies, including the authorization of a hunting season as early as this spring.

“This is an egregious attempt to ignore federal law protecting Yellowstone’s iconic grizzly bears,” said Bonnie Rice, Senior Representative of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign in a statement. “We will not idly stand by while Wyoming moves to illegally take authority for managing grizzly bears and subject them to trophy hunts.”

Grizzly bears in Wyoming are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In September a federal judge struck down an attempt by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protection for grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, thwarting Wyoming’s plan to hold a fall hunting season.

“Wyoming seems to be stuck in a 19th century mindset in which the response to every situation is to kill off native predators,” said Erik Molvar, Wildlife Biologist and Executive Director at Western Watersheds Project. “It’s a good thing we have federal laws like the Endangered Species Act to limit the harm from states like Wyoming that seem bent on marking certain wildlife for eradication.”

In response last week, the Wyoming Legislature passed bill SF0093, which purports to give the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission authority to ignore the federal court’s decision. Governor Mark Gordon has signed the bill into law.

That bill would enable the commission to plan future grizzly bear hunts if it decides that a hunt “would be beneficial for managing Wyoming’s wildlife and for protecting Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state.”

“It’s outrageous that Wyoming would blatantly ignore federal law to satisfy its thirst to kill grizzly bears,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “Moves like this show that the state is far from ready to manage grizzlies.”

The notice of intent to sue says the Wyoming law violates the Endangered Species Act and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that federal law must supersede state law.

“This state law directly and unlawfully conflicts with the clear mandate of the federal Endangered Species Act, that grizzly bears must not be shot by trophy hunters seeking their heads and hides for bragging rights,” said Nicholas Arrivo, a staff attorney with the Humane Society of the United States.

“The state of Wyoming has continually made it clear that they want to offer sport hunting of grizzlies for ‘recreational opportunity.’ Going so far as to defy federal law to cater to the bloodlust of trophy hunters is incomprehensible,” said Kristin Combs, Program Director at Wyoming Wildlife Advocates.

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