Big Win for the Great Bear

Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Today’s ruling means grizzlies are safe from trophy hunting

Dear Guardian,

We’re celebrating a BIG win for grizzly bears, and you should be too!

Forty-five years after the grizzly bear was first listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in July 1975, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today to maintain protections for grizzly bears living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This decision means that Yellowstone grizzly bears will not be stripped of their Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, but will be given a chance to truly recover and thrive in their native habitat.

This momentous ruling is a culmination of years of work by Guardians and our allies to protect these magnificent creatures. Despite the many threats to grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including a lack of genetic diversity and connectivity with other isolated populations of grizzly bears, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) delisted this distinct population of grizzlies under the ESA back in 2017. It didn’t take long for the states of Wyoming and Idaho to approve trophy hunting of grizzly bears—and Montana is considering the same—leaving any bear who dared to leave the safety of Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park open to slaughter. Under the states’ plans, the very bears that would disperse and connect isolated and struggling grizzly bear populations would have died at the hands of trophy hunters.

Guardians took swift action back in 2017, taking FWS to court challenging its delisting decision. In 2018, we won in district court in Montana, with the federal judge halting hunting in Idaho and Wyoming just before the trophy hunting season was to start.

The Trump administration, the states of Wyoming and Idaho, as well as numerous special interest trophy hunting groups—like Safari Club International and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation—appealed this decision to the 9th Circuit. We went back to court and argued in one of the court’s first virtual hearings back in May 2020, believing that science would triumph over politics, once again. And today, we rejoice that protection of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is solidified, with the 9th Circuit agreeing with the lower court and wildlife advocates that listing was premature, did not rely on the best available science, and that FWS “must…ensure long-term genetic health” of Yellowstone grizzly bears.

Guardians is committed to protecting threatened and persecuted native carnivores throughout the West, for as long as the fight takes. Your actions and financial support helped make this victory possible, and your continued support will ensure we are able to act to tackle whatever challenges come next.

For the Wild,

Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program Director

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photo credit: Sam Parks