Groups are reacting to a Montana federal judge’s decision Monday to halt grizzly bear hunts in Idaho and Wyoming.
While some consider federal Judge Dana Christensen’s ruling to put grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem back on the endangered species list a win, others say this decision ignores science and was based on emotion.
“The fact there’s been folks that have spent decades working on the research and recovery of the bear and to have a judge just look at some things for a month or so and say, ‘Oh this is what it’s really about,’ that’s just ridiculous,” said Gregg Losinski, a human/bear conflict expert. “And that devalues science and that’s not something that I like to see.”
In his decision, Christensen wrote, “By delisting the Greater Yellowstone grizzly without analyzing how delisting would affect the remaining members of the lower-48 grizzly designation, the service failed to consider how reduced protections in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem would impact the other grizzly populations.”
However, bear experts say this ruling hurts the Endangered Species Act by showing that even if species have scientifically recovered from being endangered, they still cannot be delisted. They also say this could hurt the species in the end.
“The bigger picture is that folks are losing sight of what recovery is all about and what the Endangered Species Act is all about,” Losinski said. “And while this may seem like a victory it really could be the nail in the coffin for the Endangered Species Act and that was the bigger concern for me.”
Wyoming legislators were not happy with the judge’s decision.
Sen. Mike Enzi said in a statement:
“Wildlife experts and federal officials have agreed that the grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region have been fully recovered for years. It is disappointing that the state of Wyoming and U.S. Fish and Wildlife services have once again seen their well-researched attempts to delist a recovered species struck down by a federal judge. As the grizzly bear population has increased in Wyoming, so has the danger to livestock, property and humans.”
Sen.John Barrasso echoed those thoughts when he said:
“This judge’s decision is wrong and unsupported by the facts. Yet again, the courts are replacing science-based recovery measures with personal political preference. The grizzly is recovered in Wyoming. Period. Even the Obama administration determined that the grizzly should be delisted. The state has a strong, science-based plan in place for the management of the bear. That plan should have a chance to demonstrate its success.”
Tuesday, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney introduced the Grizzly Bear State Management Act to direct the Department of Interior to delist the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and prohibit any judicial review of the decision.
She said in a statement:
“The decision by a federal district court judge in Montana to re-list the grizzly ignores science, and disregards the important work done by the state of Wyoming to establish an effective grizzly bear management plan. My bill will stop this abuse of the court system and put management of the grizzly back in the hands of experts in Wyoming.”