Judge Saves Yellowstone Grizzlies From First Legal Hunt in Decades

This bear is safe. Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been nearly three decades since grizzly bears were legally hunted in the lower 48 states. That was set to end this fall, when Wyoming and Idaho planned to allow the killing of 23 grizzlies. But on Monday, a federal judge ended those plans and restored protections for grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said his decision had nothing to do with the ethics of hunting. Instead, he said the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove grizzlies in Yellowstone from the Endangered Species Act failed to consider the potential impact on grizzlies in other areas. NPR reports:

In his decision, he said grizzly bears don’t roam everywhere in the West like they used to. Instead they live in isolated pockets, and the federal regulators can’t delist those isolated pockets until the grizzly populations start connecting together.

“The Service cannot abuse its power to delist an already-protected species by ‘balkanization,” Christensen wrote.”

In ruling against the government, Christensen sided with a group of Native American tribes that joined together in an attempt to protect the grizzlies. “We have a responsibility to speak for the bears, who cannot speak for themselves. Today, we celebrate this victory and will continue to advocate on behalf of the Yellowstone grizzly bears until the population is recovered,” said Lawrence Killsback, president of the Northern Cheyenne Nation.

Prior to Monday’s ruling, Wyoming and Idaho had planned to allow grizzly hunts this fall, with Wyoming issuing 22 permits and Idaho one.

The Trump administration removed protected status from the Yellowstone grizzlies last year, citing their population increase from a low of around 150 to the 700 that currently roam the park. It’s not the only move the government has made against bears since Trump came into office. In May of this year, the Interior Department ended a ban on cruel bear hunting techniques in Alaska.

Judge Saves Yellowstone Grizzlies From First Hunt in Decades