A federal appeals court blocked effort to remove the Yellowstone Grizzly Bears from the federal list of endangered species without first a review of how delisting would affect the remaining endangered grizzly populations in the rest of the 48 states.
The ruling Wednesday is the latest roadblock in the 15-year effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to remove the bears from the endangered list.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that while the grizzly’s successful comeback in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, the FWS can delist the bears in the area without review of other grizzly populations still struggling.
The delisting had the support of hunters in the three states but garnered fierce opposition from numerous Indian tribes and environmental groups.
Judge Mary Schroeder, writing for the unanimous panel, noted that the original motivating force for passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 was the survival of the grizzly bear, the iconic symbol of the Rocky Mountain west.
In 2007, the FWS issued a rule declaring the Yellowstone grizzlies a “distinct population segment” that had come back and could be removed from the endangered list.
It is estimated that as many as 50,000 grizzly bears once roamed the US, but European settlement in the 1800s brought hunting and huge population loss to less than 2 percent of its former level by the 1930s. There are now roughly 700 bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and 900 in the north central region of Montana, the court said.
Schroeder said the trial court must order further examination of the delisting’s effect on the remnant grizzly population and that the FWS must include measures to ensure long term protection of the Yellowstone grizzly.
Schroeder was joined by Judges Paul Watford and Andrew Hurwitz.
Case: Crow Indian Tribe v. Wyoming, No. 18-36030