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Protecting grizzlies from grazing in Paradise Valley, Montana

Photo: Paradise Valley/ Erik Molvar

Q: What do you get when you cross prime grizzly habitat with a decision to expand livestock grazing on six allotments north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana’s Paradise Valley?

A: A new lawsuit!

Western Watersheds Project and our allies filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the Custer-Gallatin National Forest’s 2021 decision to expand livestock grazing on six allotments in grizzly habitat. Some of the allotments are also in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and within the “recovery zone” for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) population of grizzly bears.

According to a species status assessment from 2021, livestock grazing conflict and lack of connectivity are the of the major factors that threaten grizzlies within the GYE. Our new legal challenge asserts that by expanding livestock grazing, the Forest Service overlooked information about these threats and instead relied heavily on an outdated 1998 baseline assessment.

The lawsuit also names the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to fully consider the impacts of the grazing decision. The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to consider the implications of agency decisions to the whole species, not just the isolated effects to the GYE bears. In fact, the Paradise Valley grazing could fragment population connectivity and movement between the recovery zones, affecting grizzly recovery on a broader scale, a factor which the Service failed to assess.

Western Environmental Law Center represented us along with WildEarth Guardians, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council, and Sierra Club.

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