Breaking: WildEarth Guardians Sues Trump Admin for Stripping Yellowstone Grizzly of Endangered Status

(EnviroNews Nature) — On August 30, 2017, WildEarth Guardians (Guardians), a nonprofit environmental group legendary for suing the federal government on wildlife issues, sued the Trump Administration — this time for stripping the iconic Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) of its endangered species status — a move the Administration made on June 30. Guardians is represented by attorneys from the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) in the case.

“The Service’s premature removal of crucial federal safeguards undermines the recovery of the species as a whole, while subjecting grizzlies stepping outside the safety of our national parks to state-sanctioned trophy hunting,” Guardians stated in a press release.

Back in June when the bear was delisted, President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said, “This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of state, tribal, federal and private partners” — a sentiment not shared by conservationists.

“The Service failed to carry out its paramount – and mandatory – duty to ensure grizzly bears in the contiguous United States are recovered to the point at which the protections of the Endangered Species Act are no longer necessary,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The Service’s decision is riddled with flaws, not based in science nor the law, and places this icon of all that is wild squarely in the crosshairs of extinction once again.”

A draft copy of Guardians’ legal complaint, obtained by EnviroNews earlier this week, accuses the federal government, and specifically Secretary Zinke, the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) alongside its Director Greg Sheehan, for failing to evaluate how delisting the Yellowstone grizzly “may affect the survival and conservation of the remaining grizzlies in the contiguous United States.” In these regards, the suit accuses USFWS of acting in a manner “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

Grizzlies presently occupy only two percent of their historic range in the lower-48 states, dropping from around 50,000 bears when settlements began, to around 1,800 today. By the mid-1970s, the Yellowstone grizzly’s numbers had plummeted to as low as 136 bears, and in 1975, Ursus arctos horribilis became one of the first animals listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bear was already amongst the first species to be listed to the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966.

Guardians also elucidates in clause 25 of its complaint that “Grizzlies have one of the slowest reproductive rates of all terrestrial animals,” with the “average age of first reproduction by a grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem [being] six years old.”

One of the greatest concerns to scientists in the recovery of the bear is genetic diversity. Researchers say it is imperative that the GYE population be allowed to adjoin with other nearby, but still unconnected, grizzly populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming — a task they say will be impossible without federal safeguards. But now, “Grizzly bears inside the Distinct Population Segment (DPS) 25 boundary are now classified as a ‘game’ species,” the lawsuit states. Clause 76 of the suit reminds the court that all three states in question have already “announced plans to allow recreational hunting of grizzly bears within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

Guardians’ lawsuit elaborated this way:

The Service’s 2017 final delisting rule does not restrict where the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming may allow recreational hunting of grizzly bears outside National Parks. Recreational hunting may be allowed on lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. Recreational hunting may be allowed in areas where grizzly bears congregate to consume food sources, including moth sites, carcasses, root fields, and spawning areas. Recreational hunting may be allowed in important linkage zone or connectivity areas used by grizzly bears that disperse outside Yellowstone National Park.

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are all red states well-known for their big predator hunts. When USFWS’s protection-stripping rule was finalized in June, it turned management of the creatures over to the wildlife programs in those states — states that time and again have included predator hunts as part of their “conservation” strategies. These states have even played host to wolf and coyote killing derbies in the past — events that have enraged conservationists and animal rights activists alike.

Idaho Wolf and Coyote Killing Derby

“Biologists agree that grizzly recovery hinges on connecting isolated populations and distributing the genes they carry,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Under this illegal and ill-advised plan, dispersing grizzlies essential to species recovery would be the first to die.”

The lawsuit also contends that it is illegal for USFWS to delist an isolated population within a “metapopulation” because “in 1975, the Service listed all grizzly bears in the contiguous United States as a single, threatened species under the ESA,” and furthermore that, “under the ESA, a fragment of a species’ current range cannot be declared recovered before the species is recovered at the larger, regional scale.”

In its press release, Guardians also pointed out that the Yellowstone grizzly has been unusually hard hit over the past two years, adding to the case to put the predator back on the endangered list. Guardians stated:

At last count, approximately 690 grizzly bears resided in the Greater Yellowstone region in 2016, down from 2015’s count of 717 bears. The last two years had near record-breaking grizzly mortality, with at least 139 bears killed since 2015 (including 20 documented deaths thus far in 2017, 58 dead bears in 2016, and 61 dead grizzlies in 2015). Of those, at least 98 bears died due to human-causes and 30 deaths remain undetermined or are still under investigation.

WildEarth Guardians, alongside the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the federal government in a behemoth decade-long lawsuit that resolved in 2011. The result: the USFWS agreed as part of the landmark settlement, to move forward with protective measures for over 800 previously unprotected imperiled species. The Center for Biological Diversity, often partnered with WildEarth Guardians in wildlife actions, boasts a 93 percent success rate on wildlife cases against the federal government. The courts have frequently sided with conservation groups in the past. Now, the public is watching and wondering if the courts will force the federal government to protect a beleaguered species once again in the case of the Yellowstone grizzly.

RELATED COVERAGE FROM ENVIRONEWS ON THE DELISTING OF THE GREAT YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLY:

Trump Admin Stripping Yellowstone Grizzly of ‘Endangered’ Protection, Opening Door for Hunting

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced June 22, 2017, that it has finalized its plan to rescind Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), and turn management of the iconic creature…

Feds Attempting to Strip Yellowstone Grizzly Bear of Endangered Species Act Protection

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Missoula, Montana – In a move that has angered environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed on March 3, 2016, to strip the iconic Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear of its protected status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),…

POLL: Should Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Be Delisted, Hunted and Killed? Yes/No? (Feds Say Yes)

(EnviroNews Polls) – On March 3, 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed a new rule that would delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear, and advocate the hunting and elimination of at least 200 of the region’s approximately 715 specimens. The move fueled…

MORE ON YELLOWSTONE BEARS FROM ENVIRONEWS WYOMING

No Fairytale Ending for Yellowstone and the Three Bears After Park Shuns Thousands of Comments

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Yellowstone National Park – It was a sobering outcome for social media activists who had been clamoring to #SpareTheBear . Despite the tumult on Twitter and fury on Facebook, Yellowstone Park managers were undeterred. The park announced from the beginning, it would euthanize the…

EnviroNews Wyoming Cameraman Captures Black Bear From Eight Feet Away in Yellowstone Park

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – In what is to serve as the official launch of EnviroNews Wyoming, this awesome video from the archives demonstrates a very young black bear grazing on grass and various plants in a large meadow in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. While taping the episode,…

OTHR RELATED NEWS FROM ENVIRONEWS:

Wyoming Wolves Stripped of Endangered Species Act Protection – Shoot-on-Sight Policy Restored

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Gray wolves (Canis lupus) will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the state of Wyoming. That was the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on March 3, 2017, which also happened to be…

Idaho Wolf-Killing Contest Killed for One More Year – Kind of…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Facing a lawsuit from conservation groups, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has revoked a permit allowing for a “predator derby” to take place on approximately three million acres of public lands in north-central Idaho near the town of Salmon. The derby originally called…

California the First to Ban Predator Prizes While Idaho Forges Ahead With Wolf-Killing Derby

(EnviroNews California) – Van Nuys, CA – Will not allowing prizes for California wildlife hunting derbies deter such events from taking place? Groups like Project Coyote certainly think so. On December 3, with a 4 to 1 vote, the California Fish and Game Commission passed a motion…

Republicans Lick Chops While Revving Up To Dismantle The Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On Feb. 15, 2017, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing called, “Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the EPW, held this two-hour hearing to explore “the need to modernize…

WildEarth Guardians Sues Colorado over Plan to Kill Black Bears, Mountain Lions

(EnviroNews Nature) – Denver, Colorado – The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department (CPW), the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources are being sued by WildEarth Guardians (WEG) for their December approval of two predator-killing programs. Through the Piceance Basin Predator Management…

Five Environmental Groups Sue USDA Over Idaho Wolf-Killing Program

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Boise, Idaho – On June 1, 2016, five prominent environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services for killing over 650 wolves in the state of Idaho over the past decade. Wildlife Services is…

Federal Government Sued For Killing Wolves in Oregon

(EnviroNews Oregon) – Five environmental groups filed a lawsuit on February 3, 2016, in U.S. District Court against the federal agency Wildlife Services, over what they say is the illegitimate killing of wolves in the state of Oregon. WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Predator Defense, and Project…

Federal Judge Orders Stop to Canadian Lynx Trapping in Idaho

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Boise, Idaho – A federal judge has ordered a stop to the haphazard trapping of Canadian Lynx in Idaho. Lynx canadensis, as it is scientifically known, is one of the rarest cats in the United States and has been captured multiple times in Idaho over…

Predator Bloodbath: ‘Secretive’ Federal Agency Wildlife Services Kills 1.6 Million Native Animals in 2016

(EnviroNews Nature) – Wildlife Services (WS), a little-known wildlife-killing program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), killed 2,744,010 animals in 2016, 1,594,595 of which were native to the U.S. The agency shared this death toll in its annual program data…

No Endangered Species Act Protection for Sonoran Desert Tortoise, Interior Announces

(EnviroNews Arizona) – Washington D.C. – The Morafka’s, or Sonoran desert tortoise, or Gopherus morafkai as it is scientifically known, is a slow moving, yet ancient creature that gets its water from eating native plants while spending most of its time in underground insulated burrows that it digs…

Dept. of Interior: No Protection for Greater Sage Grouse Under Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Commerce City, Colorado – On the morning of Tuesday August 22, 2015, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced that Centrocercus urophasianus, a.k.a. greater sage grouse, will not receive protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A decision by U.S. Fish…

WildEarth Guardians: DOI’s Bi-State Sage Grouse ‘Conservation Success’ Is ‘Window Dressing’

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Douglas, Wyoming – On April 21, 2015 Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Sally Jewell appeared in Reno, Nevada to make a pivotal Bi-State Sage Grouse Announcement: No protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the bi-state distinct population of the greater…