A lawsuit has been filed against the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission over a proposed Yellowstone grizzly bear hunting season.
According to a Center for Biological Diversity press release, the Center, along with Wyoming wildlife filmmaker Jim Laybourn and the Humane Society of the United States, filed the suit late last week. The filers believe the state Commission illegally curtailed the public comment period in order to fast-track approval of a trophy hunt of Yellowstone area grizzlies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously announced in March their intention to delist Yellowstone area grizzly bears, which would transfer management responsibilities to the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Each state has expressed interest in limited trophy hunts—the first hunt proposed since 1975, when the bears were initially listed under the Endangered Species Act. We previously reported the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission had held public comment sessions across the state.
The proposal has come under criticism from many different groups, ranging from conservationists to Native Americans. Former Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team researcher David Mattson has faulted the plan for being based off “cherry-picked data” and for ignoring the importance of “connectivity” with other grizzly populations. And a recent study published earlier in May has posted a link between hunting and poaching of large carnivores, which has become another rallying point for opponents to the proposal. From the Center for Biological Diversity:
Citizens concerned with the slaughter of the bears were only given 30 days to review the proposed management plan for the trophy hunt, and shortly thereafter the Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan. The Commission simultaneously adopted a tri-state memorandum of agreement with Idaho and Montana to formalize quotas for grizzly hunts, allocating over 50% of the quota to Wyoming.
Jim Laybourn, a lifelong Wyoming resident who has spent thousands of hours observing grizzly bears in the field, said “I am deeply concerned about the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s apparent lack of respect for the will of the public. Grizzly bears are the keystone species of both our ecosystem and our economy, worth tens of millions in tourism dollars each year. The management plan will remain fatally flawed until the Commission gives the community whose livelihood depends on grizzlies an opportunity to make their voices heard.”
“The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has once again ignored scientific evidence and promoted the persecution of large carnivores,” said Anna Frostic, senior attorney for wildlife litigation at The Humane Society of the United States. “The public must be given ample time to scrutinize any proposal to commercialize our wildlife heritage.”
The plaintiffs in this lawsuit hope to reopen the comment period in Wyoming, saying more public input is needed before a decision can be made. The plaintiffs will be represented by Humane Society and Center for Biological Diversity attorneys, along with local counsel Megan Hayes. Other state wildlife commissions, such as Montana Fish, Parks & Wildlife, have received thousands of comments from across the nation regarding Yellowstone grizzlies.