Here’s an excellent article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen restoring federal protection to Yellowstone area grizzlies . . .
A federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection and effectively blocked grizzly hunting seasons in Wyoming and Idaho on Monday.
“Although this order may have impacts throughout grizzly country and beyond, this case is not about the ethics of hunting and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote at the start of his 48-page ruling. “This court’s review, constrained by the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress, is limited to answering a yes-or-no question: Did the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceed its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear?”
Christensen ruled the agency did err by failing to consider how delisting the estimated 750 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park might affect survival of another roughly 1,200 bears in five other recovery areas. He wrote Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also acted arbitrarily and capriciously in analyzing threats to the Yellowstone bears.
The current court challenge to the Wyoming and Idaho grizzly hunt is only the tip of the iceberg . . .
While most stories about last week’s grizzly bear court hearing trumpeted the last-minute suspension of trophy hunts in Wyoming and Idaho, the lawsuit had nothing to do with the legality of grizzly hunting.
And while it did focus on whether grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem still need federal protection, the eventual decision will affect a far larger landscape. That points up a conundrum of the Endangered Species Act: It’s one challenge to recover a species, but quite another to delist it.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen didn’t render a decision from the bench on Thursday as many expected he might. But he did grant a 14-day restraining order blocking Wyoming and Idaho from starting their grizzly hunts on Saturday.
Public hearings scheduled in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, Conrad
The Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved language for a proposed administrative rule that would codify population objectives for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).
The decision on August 9, 2018 sets into motion a public comment period that will run from Aug. 24 through Oct. 26. Public hearings will be held in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, and Conrad. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will explain and answer questions about the proposed population objectives at the hearings and take public comment.
The population objective is for NCDE, which is one of six designated recovery areas for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states. Grizzly bears in the NCDE are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, although they have met their recovery criteria and may be proposed for delisting in the future.
The NCDE subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) released a revised conservation strategy for grizzly bears (found here) earlier this summer. This document summarizes the commitments and coordinated efforts made by the state, tribal and federal agencies to manage and monitor the grizzly bear population and its habitat upon delisting.
Here’s a good overview, with useful links, of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s proposed grizzly bear conservation strategy . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is taking the next step toward delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by formalizing how the agency will manage the population.
On Thursday, the FWP Commission will decide whether to give initial approval to a new administrative rule that would set state grizzly population objectives for the 16,000-square-mile area, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. If approved, the rule would go out for public comment, then final approval in December.
In mid-June, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee released a conservation strategy for the northern population, which depends on cooperation between federal, state and tribal entities. However, the executive committee delayed its decision to endorse the 326-page document until members had a chance to review it. A vote is expected by the end of summer, and an initial delisting proposal is expected sometime this fall.
Here’s the official Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release announcing their proposed “administrative rule” for managing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.
“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”
Now, here’s an interesting approach to combating Wyoming’s grizzly bear hunt. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is . . .
Jane Goodall is a global icon, perhaps the most admired living environmentalist and legendary for her research with chimpanzees. Cynthia Moss is famous for her conservation work in eastern Africa battling elephant poachers and speaking out against trophy hunting.
Within the last few days, Goodall, 84, and Moss, 78, entered a lottery hoping to win a coveted hunting license in Wyoming allowing them to sport shoot a grizzly bear in the Yellowstone region. They have no aspirations to actually kill a bruin. Their maneuver is part of a mass act of civil disobedience to protest Wyoming’s controversial hunt of up to 22 grizzlies—the first in 44 years—slated to commence only weeks from now.
Called “Shoot ‘em With A Camera, Not A Gun,” the impromptu campaign, spearheaded mainly by women, has caught hunting officials in Wyoming off guard. It has also created a groundswell among those who condemn the state’s recommencement of a trophy season on grizzlies just a year after they were removed from federal protection. In May, Wyoming’s wildlife commission approved the hunt unanimously 7-0.
Here’s a good article in the Hungry Horse News on the federal habitat plan intended to provide protection for grizzly bears in this corner of the country even after they are removed from the Endangered Species List . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed off on plan May 16 that looks to maintain grizzly bear habitat and recovery along the Continental Divide even after the bear is removed from the Endangered Species List.
The Habitat Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes about 8 million acres of land along the Divide from Glacier National Park south to Ovando, looks to maintain road density and other standards on federal lands, though it does include some wiggle room.
Roads and bears over the years have been a controversial subject, as federal land agencies — most notably the Forest Service, have either closed or completely torn out hundreds of miles of dirt roads that once criss-crossed the Forest. Studies have found that roads and grizzlies don’t mix — not because grizzlies won’t cross roads — they will — but because open roads often result in poaching or other forms of bear deaths due to interactions with humans.
Amid substantial debate, plans for removing the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List proceed apace . . .
A crucial piece of the plan to hand the biggest population of grizzly bears in Montana over to state management was released on Thursday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem describes what grizzlies there need to remain off Endangered Species Act protection if the federal government decides to delist them. A full delisting plan for the grizzlies should come up for public review in June.
The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) stretches from the southern tip of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex north to the Canadian border. It includes Glacier National Park, but does not connect to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park. An estimated 1,000 grizzly bears inhabit the NCDE.
Here’s a pretty good overview of Wyoming’s recently approved grizzly bear hunt . . .
A debate over whether the Yellowstone ecosystem’s grizzly bear population can thrive while being hunted will be put to the test this fall after Wyoming officials on Wednesday approved the state’s first grizzly hunt in 44 years.
The hunt, approved 7-0 by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, could allow as many as 22 grizzlies to be killed in a wide area east and south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Hunt proponents and opponents made last-minute pleas before the commission, which held several public meetings on the hunt around the state and tweaked the hunt rules in response to some previous comments.
The Flathead Beacon has a good story on the plans to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List in this corner of Montana . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce plans this September to delist grizzlies from the federal Endangered Species Act in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the rugged chunk of Northwest Montana that includes Glacier National Park, parts of five national forests and two reservations.
It’s also believed to be home to the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.
The strategy to move grizzlies from federal to state control has long been in the works, and bear managers are now coordinating the scientific and policy research necessary to propose a delisting rule.
“We have believed this population has likely met the demographic recovery goals for many years now,” Hillary Cooley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) grizzly bear recovery coordinator, said. “We’ve met our recovery goal and we’re probably well above it, so this is a good time to start evaluating it formally.”