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A grizzly bear walks through the fall foliage in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming on September 30, 2017.

A grizzly bear walks through the fall foliage in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming on September 30, 2017. (Photo: Ania Tuzel Photography/Flickr/cc)

Groups Challenge Trump-Approved Plan to Kill 72 Grizzlies Near Yellowstone

"The federal government shouldn't be killing native species so the livestock industry can graze cattle on public lands for next to nothing."

Kenny Stancil

A pair of environmental groups on Thursday filed a notice of appeal to challenge a Trump administration-approved plan that would allow up to 72 grizzly bears to be killed to accommodate private livestock grazing near Yellowstone National Park.

"A wide range of effective, nonlethal measures are available to livestock producers."

Thursday's filing by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club appeals a May decision by the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, which ruled that the federal government may authorize the extermination of as many as six dozen grizzly bears in the Upper Green River area of Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest.

"We're determined to stop this terrible plan, which could be a death sentence for dozens of Yellowstone grizzly bears," Andrea Zaccardi, carnivore conservation legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "The federal government shouldn't be killing native species so the livestock industry can graze cattle on public lands for next to nothing. We believe the court's decision was flawed, and we'll continue to fight for the lives of these magnificent bears."

According to the groups:

The court's opinion contained several legal flaws. For example, the court erred when it determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's [FWS] analysis discussing the project's impacts to bears was legally sufficient, even after acknowledging that the agency's analysis lacked a discussion of how many females could be killed under the project.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club are not alone in fighting the federal court's decision to uphold the Trump-era plan for lethal removals.

Last month, the Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to reverse the lower court's ruling, which dismissed plaintiffs' argument that FWS failed to adequately account for how killing up to 72 grizzly bears—out of an estimated 727 in the Greater Yellowstone region—would affect a species categorized as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

As that trio of groups explained:

Grizzly bears reproduce slowly, with lengthy periods between litters of cubs. For that reason, maximizing the survival of female grizzlies is key to the recovery of the species. Yet despite previous limits in the Upper Green on killing female grizzly bears—essential for population maintenance—the Service abandoned such protections in 2019 without explanation, and greenlit the lethal removal of dozens of bears over the next 10 years.

Last month's appeal also accuses FWS of violating the Bridger-Teton Forest Plan.

"The plan requires that grazing retain adequate forage and cover for wildlife," the groups noted. "Yet according to the agency's own scientists, the authorized level of use by domestic cattle will result in inadequate cover for sensitive amphibian and migratory bird species on these public lands."

Bonnie Rice, a senior representative for the Sierra Club, said Thursday that "the intentional killing of dozens of grizzly bears is a slap in the face to decades of recovery efforts in the Greater Yellowstone region."

"We cannot allow these bears to be killed when a wide range of effective, nonlethal measures are available to livestock producers," Rice added. "The priority should be requiring and enforcing conflict prevention measures and promoting coexistence and safety for bears and people."


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