For the second time, anti-hunting and other groups have challenged the removal of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) population of grizzly bears from the ESA list of threatened species. Indian tribal interests and anti-hunting groups have filed a total of four lawsuits challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s July 30, 2017 delisting of the GYE grizzlies, a move long supported by SCI. In 2008, SCI intervened in lawsuits challenging the first attempt to delist the grizzlies. The courts reversed that delisting based on alleged inadequate consideration of impacts concerning one of the bears’ main food sources.
Delisting the GYE distinct population segment of grizzlies, which covers portions of northwest Wyoming, southwest Montana and eastern Idaho, means that those states are primarily responsible for grizzly bear management. SCI supports the return of management to the states in which the grizzlies exist. The states are fully capable of responsibly managing the species, including authorizing well-regulated hunts when appropriate.
The various complaints make many claims, including that (1) FWS lacked authority to establish a GYE "distinct population segment" or DPS, and then delist that DPS; (2) the decision to delist the population ignored numerous (alleged) ongoing threats to grizzlies; (3) the FWS failed to rely on the best available science; (4) state management plans are inadequate; (5) the FWS failed to adequately consult with tribal interests prior to delisting; and (6) turning management over to the states, who may authorize hunts, violates the tribe members’ religious rights.
The lawsuits were all filed in U.S. District Court in Montana by the following groups: (1) Crow Indian Tribe and three other tribes, several tribal groups, and individual Indians; (2) WildEarth Guardians; (3) the National Parks Conservation Association, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club; and (4) the Humane Society of the United States and Fund for Animals. It is likely the court will consolidate all the cases into a single proceeding.
SCI’s membership has already shown great interest in SCI defending the delisting and the states retaining management over the bears.