Yellowstone grizzlies safe from hunting as judge returns them to protected list

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Yellowstone grizzlies safe from hunting as judge returns them to protected list

First Nations tribes and green groups celebrated a federal court's ruling late Monday that the Trump administration acted illegally when it gutted the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park region.

The ruling marks a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued when the Interior Department past year revoked federal protections for more than 700 grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park.

In a 48-page order, Judge Dana L. Christensen wrote that the case was "not about the ethics of hunting, and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts".

In the judge's view, the answer was no.

Of those who were in favour of the government's lifting of the protection, farmers argued that the protection means that the bear population will grow unchecked, whereas Wyoming's governor Matt Mead said that his state had spent $50m (£38m) on managing bears over a 15-year period. Grizzlies in the lower 48 have been listed as "threatened" since 1975.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland said the agency was reviewing Monday's ruling but stood behind its decision to lift protections.

The ruling marks a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued when the Interior Department a year ago revoked federal protections.

He called the ruling "momentous", given the high profile of grizzlies and growing threats to their survival in the 21st century, including climate change, which has affected a key grizzly bear food, the seeds inside whitebark pinecones.

Tim Preso of the environmental law firm EarthJustice, who served as lead attorney in a case challenging the removal of protection for bears, was ecstatic when reached at his office in Bozeman, Montana, after word arrived of the decision.

Government biologists contend Yellowstone's grizzlies are now thriving, have adapted to changes in their diet and are among the best-managed bears in the world.

The grizzy bears of Yellowstone National Park will be spared from a proposed trophy hunt, thanks to a ruling by a federal judge.

This was, the judge continued, about whether the Fish and Wildlife Service considered threats to grizzlies' recovery in the long-term when it stripped the animals of their threatened species status in June 2017.

That decision turned management of the bears over to the states, which agreed on a plan that set hunting quotas based on the number of deaths each year to ensure the population stays above 600 animals. "Facing ongoing threats and occupying a fraction of their historic range, grizzly bears are nowhere near recovery".

The lawsuit was filed by conservation groups including the Sierra CLub and the Center for BIological Diversity, and Native American groups, including the Crow Indian Tribe. "They shouldn't get away with this piecemeal delisting approach", Bishop said.

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