The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the appeal of a decision restoring Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzlies, permanently ending planned trophy hunts in Idaho and Wyoming.
In September 2018 U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen restored Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears, and in the process permanently ended planned trophy hunts in Idaho and Wyoming. In his ruling, Christensen made it clear he was ruling on one central issue: whether the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceed its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear. His conclusion: yes. The process for delisting calls for USFWS to consider the effect on all grizzlies in the Lower 48, not just the Yellowstone grizzlies, and the evidence was clear that the USFWS skipped this step in the evaluation process.
In their appeal of the Christensen decision, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers argued that the process for delisting did not mandate consideration of all grizzly-bear populations, and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could indeed just look at the local population when considering Yellowstone-area grizzlies protections.
Grizzly bears were first protected in the lower 48 states as an endangered species in 1975, when approximately 150 grizzlies were estimated to survive in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The population slowly grew to 700 bears, with USFWS officials arguing was enough of a stable base to allow delisting in 2016. Without protections, grizzly-bear management came under the purview of Idaho, Wyoming (which authorized Yellowstone grizzly hunts) and Montana, which passed on establishing a bear hunt. And while no hunting would have happened in Yellowstone National Park, they would have been allowed in areas directly adjacent to the Park.
The hearing is set for May 5, 9:30 a.m. PST. The court will hear three arguments that morning, with the Yellowstone grizzly hearing taking place last. You can view the hearing live here, and it will later be archived here.
Image of Yellowstone grizzly courtesy National Park Service.