In the ongoing saga concerning the delisting of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population, the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (SAF) and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) continue to fight for the same science-based management of grizzly bears that has successfully governed wildlife management nationwide for more than 100 years.
Recently, the two organizations stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, which are home to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are responsible for shouldering the increasing conflict and financial burdens of a growing grizzly population, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the appeal to overturn a federal district judge’s 2018 order that restored threatened species protections for the bears.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are among several groups who filed appeals seeking to reverse the order and have the grizzlies delisted. The USFWS filed a partial appeal, asking the court to shorten the list of tasks the district judge said they must complete before their next attempt to remove the population of grizzlies from the list of threatened species. SAF, RMEF and the impacted states argued for a full reversal of the order, while the opposition groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians, argued to dismiss all appeals.
At the oral argument, the three judges asked questions, which suggests that they are considering narrowing the task list FWS must complete before its next delisting decision. SAF and RMEF focused their briefing on the district judge’s misplaced concerns that delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bears might negatively impact other non-connected grizzly populations, and thereby worked to narrow the task list. The fact that the judges took a deeper dive on the requests for task narrowing is a good sign.
“Once again, we’ve been forced to protect scientific wildlife management in court due to the extreme ideology of animal-rights groups. First, for more than 12 years in the Great Lakes when it comes to wolves, and for the last three years in the West when it comes to grizzlies,” said Evan Heusinkveld president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is committed to seeing the legal process through with our partners so that recovered wildlife species can be properly returned to state management.”
In 2017, the DOI announced the removal of Yellowstone-area grizzlies, numbering more than 700, from the endangered species list based on sound science and millions of hunter dollars spent on researching and studying the bears.
Environmental and animal-rights groups claimed the grizzly population in the Yellowstone region would be decimated if delisted and placed under state management. These mirror similar claims regarding the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population which now stands between 200 to 400 percent above minimum recovery goals, depending on the state.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears has surpassed every threshold for recovery, including exceeding population levels. In the Greater Yellowstone Area, a population of 500 grizzly bears was the threshold that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would use as a standard for successfully recovery. Today, the bear population is conservatively estimated at more than 750 (and as high as 1,000 by some counts), far above that threshold, and well above the low of 125 bears in the 1980s.
About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 227,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.3 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org, elknetwork.com or 800-CALL ELK.