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We’re suing to stop the delisting of Yellowstone’s grizzlies

View original email here.

September 6, 2017
Online Messenger #358

Western Watersheds Project and our allies at Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed a new lawsuit today aimed at overturning the recent decision to strip Yellowstone grizzlies of their Endangered Species Act protection. The complaint filed in federal court in Missoula, Montana raises three main ongoing issues affecting grizzly populations: Increasingly scarce food sources, escalating human-bear conflicts, and genetic isolation from other grizzly populations due to lack of secure corridors among them.

Endangered Species Act protection has brought Yellowstone’s grizzlies back from the brink, but scientists are concerned that delisting now is premature. With food sources like whitebark pine nuts disappearing due to both climate change and beetle infestations, and cutthroat trout increasingly outcompeted by non-native trout, grizzlies mainstay nutrition sources are increasingly at risk. Paired with the number of bears killed or relocated due to conflict with livestock – about 45 in 2012 and 2014 even with ESA protection – and the likelihood that these killings will continue under state management in addition to trophy hunting mortalities, the future for the bears looks rather bleak indeed.

One of the main problems with delisting Yellowstone’s grizzlies is that the national population of grizzlies is also still facing significant threats. Considering just the Yellowstone population in isolation without considering connectivity to other groups of bears or the genetic stability of these isolated subpopulations is a fatal flaw of the delisting rule. Recent caselaw regarding the Great Lakes gray wolf affirms that the ESA intends for the agencies to take a comprehensive look at the species across its historic range, and we’ll be drawing parallels to that ruling in the current case.

Many thanks to Missoula attorneys Dave Bell and Tim Bechtold for representing the plaintiffs in this case.

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