Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the Yellowstone grizzly bear will not be removed from the federal endangered species list due to the bears’ reliance on the whitebark pine, a tree that has been declining in numbers from to beetle infestations.
Grizzly bears were given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, at which time only about 136 grizzlies existed in the Greater Yellowstone Area. After bringing number up to levels considered sustainable by the recovery plan, in 2007 the Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protection. A number of environmental organizations sued the government for delisting the bears at that time, stating that the decrease in whitebark pine creates a hardship for the bears and creates unsuitable habitat.
Tuesday’s ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocks the federal government from turning management of grizzly bears over to the concerned states; Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. In response to the court’s decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen states that the government with present the court with new evidence not available prior to the ruling.
Today there are about 600 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and their numbers continue to rise. With the higher number of bears in the area come higher numbers of bear-human encounters. 2011 had a higher than average number of grizzly-human conflicts, including 2 human deaths. GBOP remains committed to educating communities about living safely with grizzly bears. Please read more about grizzly bear identification, tips for coexistence, and safety.
Click here to read more about Tuesday’s ruling.