The debate over the first grizzly bear hunts in decades is far from over. Congresswoman Liz Cheney introduced the Grizzly Bear State Management Act yesterday, which directs the Department of the Interior to de-list the Yellowstone grizzly population once again.
The act further prohibits any future judicial review of the decision.
“The decision by [Federal District Court Judge Dana Christensen] in Montana to re-list the grizzly ignores science, and disregards the important work done by the state of Wyoming to establish an effective grizzly bear management plan,” Cheney said in a statement. “My bill will stop this abuse of the court system and put management of the grizzly back in the hands of experts in Wyoming.”
Earlier this week, Christensen issued a ruling that restored federal protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) by placing them back under the umbrella of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Christensen ruled that federal officials failed to apply the best available science in order to reach an accommodation with Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
Cheney disagreed, quoting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as saying that their biologists determined the grizzly bear population currently exceeds the carrying capacity of the GYE and now occupies over 22,500 square miles, according to a press release.
“The population has rebounded from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 today and meets all the criteria for de-listing,” Cheney quoted in a statement.
She stands together with U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, and Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott.
“It is disappointed that the state of Wyoming and U.S. Fish and Wildlife services have once again seen their well-researched attempts to de-list a recovered species struck down by a federal judge,” Enzi said in a statement.
“Biologists correctly determined grizzly bears no longer needed ESA protections,” Mead had said.
“Game and Fish is a strong proponent of all wildlife management being led by people who live in this state and having management decisions made at the local level,” said Scott Talbott, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Christensen’s ruling was reportedly based on two findings, one of which claimed that only two studies were used to support a determination that the GYE grizzly population could remain independent and genetically self-sufficient.
The ruling labels federal officials’ reliance on the studies as “illogical, as both studies conclude that the long-term health of the [GYE] grizzly depends on the introduction of new genetic material.”
The second finding concluded that federal officials did not appropriately analyze the potential impacts that de-listing the GYE grizzlies would have on other populations across the Midwest.
In the lower 48 states, grizzly bears occupy territory in the: GYE, Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in north-central Montana, Cabinet-Yaak area in Montana and northern Idaho, Selkirk Mountains in Idaho and northeast Washington, North Cascades area in north-central Washington, and Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana and central Idaho.
Only the GYE and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem boast a substantial population of grizzly bears.
The first grizzly bear hunting season in Wyoming in over 40 years was supposed to kick off on Sept. 1; however, Christensen’s ruling effectively shut it down.