Federal Judge Restores Endangered Species Protection To Yellowstone-Area Grizzlies

A federal judge on Monday restored endangered species protection to about 700 grizzly bears living in or around Yellowstone National Park just days before Wyoming and Idaho were set to allow the hunting of nearly two dozen of the animals.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen voided a 2017 decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the grizzlies, which had been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. He said his order was “not about the ethics of hunting,” but he sided with environmental and tribal groups who argued FWS had failed to consider how removing protections from Yellowstone’s grizzlies would affect the recovery of bears living in other parts of the country.

“By delisting the Greater Yellowstone grizzly without analyzing how delisting would affect the remaining members of the lower-48 grizzly designation, the Service failed to consider how reduced protections in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem would impact the other grizzly populations,” Christensen wrote. “Thus, the Service ‘entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem.’”

The grizzly population in and around Yellowstone has recovered significantly since it was first listed as endangered more than 40 years ago, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had hailed their recovery when the agency said it planned to remove such protections. But the decision ― first proposed under the Obama administration ― has been widely contentious.

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