Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bears To Lose Endangered Species Protections

Jun 22, 2017

The Interior Department Thursday said it will lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park region.

Those protections have been in place for more than 40 years.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that the recovery of Yellowstone's grizzlies is one of the nation's great conservation success stories, and that the bears are no longer threatened.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to turn over grizzly bear management to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by late July. The states plan to allow limited bear hunts outside park boundaries.

Andrea Santasiere, Senior Attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, says the move is premature:

“The Grizzly Bear population in and around Yellowstone right now is completely isolated. It’s not connected to any other grizzly bear populations. De-listing them and removing federal protections is just going to make it harder for Yellowstone grizzlies to ever connect with any other populations in Montana or Idaho," Santasiere says.

Grizzlies have been listed as a threatened species since 1975 when just 136 bears roamed in and around Yellowstone.

The Fish and Wildlife Service previously de-listed Yellowstone area grizzlies in 2007, but federal courts put a stop to that, saying the agency failed to adequately study declines in the bears’ food sources. The Western Environmental Law Center has said it plans to sue again to stop de-listing this time.

The federal government estimates that there are now more than 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone region. The de-listing announcement does not affect threatened grizzlies living in other areas of northwestern Montana and northern Idaho.