Court Re­stores Pro­tec­tion for Bears

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Front Page - by Karin Brul­liard

A US District Court judge has just re­stored fed­eral pro­tec­tions to about 700 griz­zly bears liv­ing in and around Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park, can­celling planned hunts in Wy­oming and Idaho and over­turn­ing a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion find­ing that the iconic pop­u­la­tion had re­cov­ered.

In a 48-page or­der, Judge Dana Chris­tensen wrote that the case was “not about the ethics of hunt­ing, and it is not about solv­ing hu­manor live­stock-griz­zly con­flicts.” In­stead, he said, the rul­ing was based on his de­ter­mi­na­tion that the US 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 sided with mul­ti­ple con­ser­va­tion and tribal or­gan­i­sa­tions that sued Fish and Wildlife af­ter it delisted Yel­low­stone griz­zlies in 2017, and it sup­ported one of their pri­mary con­tentions: that the iso­la­tion of the bear pop­u­la­tion, which is ex­pand­ing out­ward but re­mains un­con­nected to the other ma­jor US griz­zly pop­u­la­tion near the Canada bor­der, is ge­net­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble.

“The Ser­vice ap­pro­pri­ately recog­nised that the pop­u­la­tion’s ge­netic health is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor de­mand­ing con­sid­er­a­tion,” Chris­tensen wrote. “How­ever, it mis­read the sci­en­tific stud­ies it re­lied upon, fail­ing to recog­nise that all ev­i­dence sug­gests that the long-term vi­a­bil­ity of the Greater Yel­low­stone griz­zly is far less cer­tain ab­sent new ge­netic ma­te­rial.”

In a state­ment, Fish and Wildlife said it was re­view­ing the rul­ing and noted that it means the bears’ man­age­ment - in the hands of Wy­oming, Mon­tana and Idaho since last year - now returns to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Nev­er­the­less, the agency said, “we stand be­hind our find­ing that the Greater Yel­low­stone Ecosys­tem griz­zly bear is bi­o­log­i­cally re­cov­ered and no longer re­quires pro­tec­tion . . . Our de­ter­mi­na­tion was based on our rig­or­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law and is sup­ported by the best avail­able sci­ence and a com­pre­hen­sive con­ser­va­tion strat­egy de­vel­oped with our fed­eral, state, and tribal part­ners.”

Griz­zlies in the Lower 48 were placed on the en­dan­gered species list in 1975, by which point the preda­tors had been erad­i­cated from 98 per cent of their his­toric range and the Yel­low­stone-area pop­u­la­tion had dropped to fewer than 140 bears.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment first delisted Yel­low­stone griz­zlies in 2007, when their num­bers had re­bounded to well above 500. But that de­ci­sion was also over­turned in fed­eral court, which found that the an­i­mals’ sur­vival was threat­ened by the loss of a key food source be­cause of cli­mate change. Last year, Fish and Wildlife said it had con­cluded that the dwin­dling avail­abil­ity of that food, white­bark pine seeds, did not pose a ma­jor threat to the pop­u­la­tion.

Mon­day’s rul­ing was a vic­tory for an ar­ray of groups that sued to re­tain pro­tec­tions for griz­zlies and ar­gued that Wy­oming’s hunt - which would have al­lowed the killing of up to 22 bears - would pile un­nec­es­sary deaths onto mor­tal­ity lev­els that are in­creas­ing due to bear run-ins with hunters, ranch­ers and cars.

Sup­port­ers of the hunt, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and some ranch­ing groups, ar­gued that it was nec­es­sary to con­trol the griz­zly pop­u­la­tion and might re­move “prob­lem” bears. Fed­eral sci­en­tists said a lim­ited hunt would not harm the pop­u­la­tion.

“We’re glad the court sided with sci­ence in­stead of states bent on re­duc­ing the Yel­low­stone griz­zly pop­u­la­tion and sub­ject­ing these beloved bears to a tro­phy hunt,” said Bon­nie Rice, a se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tive with the Sierra Club, one of the or­gan­i­sa­tions that sued. “Chang­ing food sources, iso­la­tion, in­ad­e­quate state man­age­ment plans and other threats that griz­zly bears con­tinue to face war­rant strong pro­tec­tions un­til they reach full re­cov­ery.” – Wash­ing­ton Post.

Don’t ever wres­tle with a buf­falo. You’ll both get dirty, but the buf­falo will enjoy it. — Con­fu­cius wannabe

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