Conservation Groups File A New Lawsuit Aiming To Protect Grizzly Bears From Cattle Ranchers In Montana’s Paradise Valley

Nine conservation organizations filed a lawsuit yesterday to challenge the U.S. Forest Service’s 2021 decision to authorize expanded livestock grazing on six allotments on the east side of Montana’s Paradise Valley. The allotments lie just north of Yellowstone National Park in occupied grizzly bear habitat.

Several of the allotments are located in designated grizzly recovery zones and within important habitat linkages for bears in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The U.S. Forest Service has expanded both the livestock grazing area and season, putting the bears at higher risk of being killed in response to conflict with cattle operations. Greater grizzly bear mortality in areas on the cusp of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will slow the bears’ recovery and keep the Yellowstone grizzly bear population isolated. Scientists predict that long-term isolation of Yellowstone grizzlies will likely decrease their genetic diversity, which would harm the population’s health and reproductive success.

In addition to challenging the Forest Service’s decision, the suit also names the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a defendant for using out-of-date scientific information and failing to adequately consider the impacts of the grazing decision on grizzly bears.

“Conflict with livestock is a leading cause of death for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” said Jocelyn Leroux, Washington and Montana Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Expanded grazing in these allotments is irresponsible and will stymie connectivity between the grizzlies of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and those of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. A better choice would be to keep livestock out of public land grizzly habitat entirely.”

In recent decades, Yellowstone grizzly bears have also experienced a drastic decline in two of their main food sources – whitebark pine nuts and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. This has led them to consume more meat, which sometimes includes livestock.

In 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a species status assessment that named grizzly bear mortalities resulting from livestock conflicts and lack of connectivity as two of the major factors that threaten grizzly bear recovery. Yesterday’s legal challenge asserts that by allowing expanded livestock grazing, the Forest Service failed to take these factors into account and relied heavily on an outdated 1998 baseline describing livestock use allowed in the grizzly bear “recovery zone.” However, in using this baseline the Forest Service failed to consider the current best available science regarding impacts to grizzly bears.

“The science is clear: grizzly bears need safe, livestock-free passage between populations in order to recover,” said Lizzy Pennock, carnivore coexistence advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “With this decision, the U.S. Forest Service ignores both the best available science and its legal responsibility to protect wildlife.”

“Allowing more livestock grazing in prime grizzly bear habitat is irresponsible and threatens long-term recovery of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem,” said Bonnie Rice, senior representative for the Sierra Club. “The Forest Service’s decision is misguided, considering the number of grizzly bears that are already killed every year as a result of conflicts with livestock operations in the Yellowstone region. Bears need to be able to move through this landscape and connect with grizzly bears to the north to ensure long-term recovery.”

The nine organizations that filed the lawsuit include Western Watersheds Project, Western Environmental Law Center, WildEarth Guardians, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, and Sierra Club.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

More on this topic

Popular stories

Federal Court Blocks Massive Arctic Oil & Gas Project In Alaska After Officials Failed To Properly Examine Risks To Climate & Polar Bears

Last week, a federal court in Alaska revoked the approval of a large oil and gas project known as the Willow Master Development Plan in...

Breaking! Animals Asia’s New PSA ‘The Only Cure Is Kindness’ Aims To Raise Funds To Save More Bears From The Bear Bile Industry In...

A growing number of celebrities are joining Animals Asia for their ‘The Only Cure Is Kindness’ campaign which is aimed at saving bears from the...

IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team Saves & Re-releases Two Dolphins Off Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Photos by: IFAW An all-day effort to guide two common dolphins back to deeper waters to avoid a stranding has ended in success with both...