Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon on Tuesday announced a petition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to remove Yellowstone grizzly bears from the endangered species list.
The petition, filed Jan. 11, claims grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have, by all measures, been fully recovered since 2003.
“The grizzly bears at GYE are fully recovered and their management is now best entrusted to experienced and competent state institutions,” Gordon said in a statement. “After all, Wyoming has invested over $ 52 million and spent countless hours of gaming and fish expertise to reach this point. We are optimistic that (FWS) will view the petition favorably, and we look forward to work with them on radiation. ”
The petition was made possible through a cooperative effort between Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, where each separately approved an amended tri-state memorandum of understanding (MOA) that claimed GYE grizzly bears had grown in – beyond the limits of their biological and socially appropriate range.
At the time of the MOA, GYE’s grizzly bear population numbered over 1,000 bears, which would have been well beyond the scientific requirements for a recovered and viable population, according to a Nov. 30, 2021 release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department ( WGFD).
The MoU referred to concerns regarding the maintenance of the long-term genetic health of the GYE bear and contained an explicit commitment to provide for translocation of bears into the population, as needed, to maintain genetic diversity, in accordance with the WGFD.
“This is an extraordinary and monumental achievement in species recovery and should be celebrated,” Gordon said Jan. 11. “The GYE Grizzly Bear is poised to join the ranks of the Bald Eagle, American Alligator, Peregrine Falcon and Brown Pelican as receiving proper recognition as a thriving, restored and stable species.
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There is no biological or legal reason to keep the grizzly GYE on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list, Gordon continued.
The FWS has 90 days to review the petition, after which it can be approved for further review or denied. If further review is granted, the agency may take up to a year to further analyze Wyoming’s request and make a final decision.
The petition is the latest move in a multi-year saga to eradicate GYE grizzly bears and bring them under state management that began in 2017 when the animals were momentarily removed from the protection of the species law in endangered (ESA) for the second time. since 2007.
Soon after, the WGFD began talks regarding the future management of a growing grizzly bear population through various means, including a potential hunting season, with the number of bear-human conflicts apparently on the rise.
The hunting season was approved by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and former Wyoming Governor Matt Mead in 2018 amid protests from environmentalists and animal rights activists.
The hunt was ultimately stopped by a Montana federal judge who issued a temporary restraining order preventing Wyoming from pursuing its approved plan.
In September 2018, a federal judge finally overturned the decision to remove grizzly bear GYE from ESA, saying federal officials had not applied the best science available to reach a compromise with Wyoming, Idaho and the Montana.
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The judge ruled that researchers had not properly analyzed the potential impacts that removing GYE grizzly bears would have on other populations in the Midwest.
The decision sparked debate in the US Congress, with Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) introducing the Grizzly Bear State Management Act, which was not approved, ordering the US Department of the Interior to again withdraw the GYE grizzly bear population.
The following year, 2019, Cheney teamed up with former Sen. Mike Enzi to reintroduce a similar act, who said he had been working on the issue for over 20 years, that is, since how long it is known that the grizzly bear population of GYE has been fully recovered.
Weeks earlier, the Wyoming legislature had rejected the federal decision and passed a bill, Senate Dossier 93, that put grizzly bear hunting back on the table, saying the decision deprived the state of any authority to make decisions. grizzly bear management decisions while leaving the state grappling with the costs of managing the species.
“The district court order hampers the ability of the state of Wyoming to protect the safety of its citizens, especially in light of grizzly bear attacks on workers and other state citizens and tourists,” indicates the bill.
The news sparked legal action from several environmental groups, some of whom were instrumental in the decision to suspend Wyoming grizzly hunts in 2018, who challenged the new law allowing hunts regardless of federal decision.
At least one group in 2019 accused Wyoming of being stuck in a “19th century state of mind where the answer to every situation is to kill native predators,” while another said the state had always made it clear that he wanted to offer sport hunting for grizzly bears and would go so far as to “defy federal law to meet the bloodlust of trophy hunters.”