Federal Court Overturns Delisting of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears

In a ruling widely applauded by Native American tribes and conservation groups, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana has restored federal protections to about 700 grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park. The court decision also effectively cancels pending grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho, which were planned to occur under State management of the species after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017 removed the Yellowstone grizzly distinct population segment from federal protection as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act.

In his 48-page order, Judge Dana L. Christensen wrote that the case was “not about the ethics of hunting, and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts.” The ruling was based on the judge’s determination that the Fish and Wildlife Service had illegally failed to consider how removing the Yellowstone bears from the endangered species list would affect other protected grizzly populations, and that its analysis of future threats to the bears was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The decision is a victory for multiple conservation and tribal organizations (plaintiffs) that sued the Fish and Wildlife Service after it delisted Yellowstone grizzlies in 2017. The court found one of plaintiffs’ primary claims to be compelling: that the isolation of the Yellowstone grizzly population, which is expanding outward but remains unconnected to the other major U.S. grizzly population near the Canada border, makes it genetically vulnerable.

To read the September 24, 2018 court order, click here for a PDF copy.

The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks has been actively involved in the protection of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. For more information about our previous actions on this issue, click here.