Lawsuit Launched Over Trump Administration Failure To Expand Grizzly Bear Recovery

Yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to create a comprehensive recovery plan for grizzly bears that considers reintroducing them to places like California’s Sierra Nevada, the Selway-Bitteroot in Idaho and Montana, and the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas in Arizona.

The filing follows a 2014 petition by the Center that identified 110,000 square miles of potential grizzly habitat in the lower 48 states.

The Trump administration so far has only attempted to halt grizzly recovery, including a 2017 order to remove federal protection from Yellowstone grizzlies that was overturned by a judge in September 2018.

“It’s past time the Fish and Wildlife Service created a new grizzly bear plan to follow the science and truly recover these magnificent animals,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director in a statement. “Grizzlies are icons of the American West, but they’re relegated to a small fraction of the lands they once roamed. These amazing animals should live wherever there’s good habitat in the West.”

In overturning removal of protection for Yellowstone bears, the court faulted the Fish and Wildlife Service for taking a piecemeal approach to recovery that ignored the impact of stripping protection from those bears in the lower 48 states.

The court also faulted the agency for not addressing Yellowstone bears’ isolation from other populations. Both findings clearly highlight the need for a new recovery plan.

“The recovery of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks is a noted Endangered Species Act success, but the bruins are far from full recovery,” said Greenwald. “We’d love to see the Fish and Wildlife Service look for new opportunities to recover bears in more of their historic range in the western U.S., and connect the populations in Yellowstone and Glacier with others.”

The Service even acknowledged the need for a new recovery plan in a 2011 grizzly bear status review. The agency concluded that the 1993 plan no longer reflected best available science and needed to be updated to consider additional recovery areas.

Relying on extensive research since 1993, the Center’s petition identified 110,000 square miles of potential grizzly habitat in places like California’s Sierra Nevada, the Selway-Bitteroot in Idaho and Montana, Utah’s Uinta Mountains and the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas in Arizona.

Returning bears to some or all of these areas is a crucial step toward recovering them under the Endangered Species Act and could potentially triple the grizzly bear population in the lower 48, from a meager 1,500 to 1,800 today, to as many as 6,000 bears in the future.

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