Protecting Grizzly Bears

Faced with shrinking habitat, the loss of critical food sources, and the impacts of climate change, grizzly bears are struggling to survive. Indeed, only 800-1,000 grizzlies remain in the lower 48 states, about 700 of which call the Greater Yellowstone area home.

Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears were federally protected by the Endangered Species Act from 1975-2017. The chief threat to the species is the decline of whitebark pine, whose seed is a critical food source. Numerous scientific studies characterize the grizzly population as unrecovered, and its future as uncertain.

Still, the Trump administration removed Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears, opening the door for trophy hunting. In late June, 2017 with our partners at WildEarth Guardians, we sent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a notice of our intent to sue the agency over the decision. Among other issues, our reasoning includes:

  • Removing federal protections is premature and violates the Service’s mandate to recover grizzlies under the Endangered Species Act.
  • The Service’s conclusion that changes in food resources – in particular as a result of climate change – do not now, nor will they in the future, negatively impact Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears is incorrect and not supported by the best available science.
  • The proposed rule’s designation of the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears as a distinct population segment for the sole purpose of delisting violates the Endangered Species Act and existing case law.
  • The “significant portion of its range” analysis of grizzly habitat, used to buttress the argument for delisting, fails to consider lost historic range due to human encroachment and climate change.
  • We disagree with the Service that allowing hunting for a grizzly population only arguably recovered, and even then only in one population, will not significantly harm grizzly bears.