In June of 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized its plans to remove Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List, a decision that defies the best available science and could set grizzly bear recovery back by decades. Now the agency has recently recognized what many of us already knew: the decision is flawed.
This delisting comes amid a recent increase in grizzly bear deaths in the Yellowstone region. Federal biologists documented a record-high 61 grizzly deaths in 2015 and another 58 deaths in 2016, the majority due to conflicts with people.
On June 30, 2017, NPCA joined a coalition of tribal and conservation groups announcing its intention to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service to overturn this harmful decision.
NPCA is extremely concerned that the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to provide a responsible plan for the bears’ continued recovery and has several major issues with the decision.
- It fails to provide long-term and enforceable regulations to ensure the grizzly population remains stable and is able to increase in both size and geographic scope.
- It could open the way to hunting grizzly bears on private and state-owned land inside and adjacent to the area’s national park sites, further jeopardizing the long-term health of the grizzly population.
- It does not include measures that would encourage connectivity with grizzly bears that live in the Crown of the Continent/Glacier ecosystem, depriving both populations of the genetic diversity they need to thrive.
- It fails to provide the National Park Service with a formal seat at the table to work with state agencies to manage bears that move beyond park borders.
- It fails to properly consider how climate change will impact the grizzly bears long-term.
The stakes are too high to rush the process and remove important protections for these iconic bears.
The 18-million-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few suitable habitats left in the country that is large enough to support grizzly bears. These animals teetered on the brink of extinction in the 1970s, and the Yellowstone population has grown to more than 600 today — an achievement worthy of celebration.
However, the survival of grizzly bears did not happen by accident. The Endangered Species Act set strict protections, and dedicated wildlife experts and public support made their recovery possible. It took decades of hard work and millions of taxpayer dollars to save these animals from being lost forever, and we must ensure they continue to thrive.
A recent federal court ruling related to how the agency implemented important portions of the Endangered Species Act when removing protections for another species makes it clear that the Department of Interior failed to conduct important analysis when delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear.
NPCA believes the prudent action is to withdraw the delisting and work with other key stakeholders to redo the delisting decision. However, the Department of Interior refuses to do so.
The agency’s refusal to withdraw the delisting while publicly questioning the validity of their own decision is a disservice to the American people. Ignoring important legal and scientific concerns underscores the Department of Interior’s willingness to jeopardize the long-term health of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park grizzlies.
NPCA will continue to fight to ensure the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service works with other key stakeholders including the National Park Service to redo the delisting decision and include enforceable regulations to ensure the grizzly bears of Grand Teton, Yellowstone and the surrounding area are able to continue to rebound.
More than 17,700 Comments Submitted to USFWS
NPCA supporters submitted comments expressing concern on the proposal to remove Greater Yellowstone grizzlies from the Endangered Species List.
More than 8,000 Took Action for Grizzlies
Thousands of national park advocates submitted comments to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking the agency to withdraw its decision to delist the grizzly bears of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
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