|Photo of grizzly from USFWS|
WildEarth Guardians and Western Environmental Law Center have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's flawed decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone’s grizzlies. Grizzlies are threatened by dwindling food sources, isolation, habitat loss, poaching, human-caused mortality, and the worsening impacts of climate change. Fewer than 1,800 grizzlies survive in the lower 48; about 700 roam the Greater Yellowstone area. The premature removal of ESA safeguards not only undermines the recovery of the species, it puts grizzlies that step beyond the safety of our national parks in the crosshairs of trophy hunters.
The lawsuit contends that the Service illegally designated grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone as a “distinct population segment” and removed ESA protection without considering the impact that removal will have on other struggling grizzly populations in the lower 48. The Service also failed to use the best available science to determine that grizzlies in the Yellowstone region have recovered.
Yellowstone’s isolated grizzly bears have not connected to bears elsewhere in the U.S., including those in and around Glacier National Park. Grizzlies also have not reclaimed historic habitats such as the Bitterroot Range along the Montana-Idaho border. The sad fact is that grizzlies are no longer in nearly 98 percent of their historic range.
Hunted, trapped, and poisoned, grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 plummeted from 50,000 bears to only a few hundred by the 1930s. In response, the Service designated the species as threatened under the ESA in 1975. This probably saved grizzlies from extinction.
The lawsuit says that at last count, around 690 grizzly bears resided in the Greater Yellowstone region in 2016. That declined from 717 bears in 2015 due to near record-breaking grizzly mortality. At least 139 bears have been killed since 2015 (20 documented deaths in 2017, 58 in 2016, and 61 in 2015). At least 98 bears have died due to human-causes. Thirty deaths remain undetermined or under investigation.
A grizzly-sized Thank You to WildEarth Guardians and Western Environmental Law Center for fighting for Endangered Species Act protection for Yellowstone’s grizzlies! This legal battle is essential. But it’s also expensive, and these are non-profit organizations. Mary and I will donate to help both organizations. I hope you can too. Whatever you can afford will be well used and tax-deductible.
Indie author Rick Lamplugh lives near Yellowstone’s north gate and writes to protect wildlife and preserve wildlands. His new book, Deep into Yellowstone: A Year’s Immersion in Grandeur and Controversy, is available signed from Rick, or unsigned on Amazon. His best seller, In the Temple of Wolves, is available signed, or unsigned on Amazon.