MSLF appeals judge’s decision to return Yellowstone grizzly to the endangered species list
December 22, 2018
DENVER — Mountain States Legal Foundation filed an appeal, urging the Ninth Circuit to overrule the District Court in Montana and to return management of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear to state and local wildlife management authorities.
Mountain States Legal Foundation appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of its clients, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Charles C. Price, and W&M Thoman Ranches, LLC.
Mountain States Legal Foundation will ask the appeals court to uphold the original purpose of the Endangered Species Act and to allow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return management of the recovered grizzly bear to the states where the animal lives and has a direct impact on citizens. Once a successful recovery occurs, the ESA stipulates that management is supposed to return to the states.
"If this decision is allowed to stand, it will be nearly impossible for USFWS to delist any recovered species in the future," said Cody J. Wisniewski of Mountain States Legal Foundation, lead counsel on the case. "The court cannot impose additional delisting requirements on USFWS that the ESA does not contemplate — especially requirements that run contrary to the purpose of the act."
In September 2018, Judge Dana Christensen of the U.S. District Court of Montana ordered that the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear be returned to the endangered species list, contrary to the recommendation of USFWS researchers (Crow Indian Tribe v. United States of America).
After years of research and careful monitoring, the USFWS found in June of 2017 that the Greater Yellowstone region's grizzly bear population exceeded the minimum population goal set by scientists in 2013 and was fully recovered. USFWS scientists determined it was time to remove the Yellowstone grizzly from the Endangered Species List.
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"This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, at the time of the 2017 delisting.
But several Indian tribes and environmental groups sued to force the grizzly back onto the list and to require USFWS to retain management control of the bear.
Ranchers in western Wyoming have faced mounting losses to their sheep and cattle in recent years and have faced more frequent attacks on humans as the grizzly population has swelled and expanded its territory. A Wyoming hunting guide was killed in a grizzly attack only 10 days prior to Judge Christensen's ruling.
MSLF will ask the Ninth Circuit to reaffirm that the ESA is designed to assist the states with recovery, when necessary, and then to return management of the species to the states once recovery goals are met. ❖