Victory! Judge Blocks 1st Planned Yellowstone Grizzy Bear Hunt In 4 Decades & Reinstates Endangered Species Act Protection

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Federal safeguards for greater Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bears were reinstated last night after a judge ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from the population was illegal.

The decision spares the grizzlies from planned trophy hunts that were scheduled to begin this fall in Wyoming and Idaho, the first time in more than 40 years. The now blocked hunts would have allowed for up to 23 bears to be killed outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Earthjustice, representing the Northern Cheyenne tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Park Conservation Association, argued for restoring protections to Yellowstone grizzly bears.

“The grizzly is a big part of why the Yellowstone region remains among our nation’s last great wild places,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. “This is a victory for the bears and for people from all walks of life who come to this region to see the grizzly in its natural place in the world.”

In August 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone-region grizzly bear population from the federal endangered and threatened species list.

“People around the world will applaud the decision to again protect Yellowstone’s beloved grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act,” Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. “Facing ongoing threats and occupying a fraction of their historic range, grizzly bears are nowhere near recovery. These beautiful and beleaguered animals certainly shouldn’t be shot for cheap thrills or a bearskin rug.”

The Northern Cheyenne Nation agrees, noting that they view the grizzly bear as a relative that is entitled to respect and protection.

“We have a responsibility to speak for the bears, who cannot speak for themselves,” said Lawrence Killsback, president of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. “We will continue to advocate on behalf of the Yellowstone grizzly bears, until the population is recovered, including within the Tribe’s ancestral homeland in Montana and other states.”

The tribe and groups also faulted the Service for carving out and delisting the isolated Yellowstone grizzly population instead of focusing on a broader, more durable grizzly recovery in the West. They further challenged the Service’s decision to disallow public input on changes to its management framework for grizzlies, which weakened protections.

“Grizzly bears that call Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks’ home will no longer be threatened by an aggressive hunt that was planned this fall on lands bordering the national parks, thanks to the court’s ruling,” said Bart Melton, Northern Rockies regional director for National Parks Conservation Association. “The Department of the Interior can now go back to the drawing board to hopefully consider research, such as the long-term impacts of climate change on the population, which must be considered to ensure a healthy long-term future for Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies.”

The court had previously issued an extended temporary restraining order to prevent the hunts from proceeding while the judge finalized his decision.

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