Court orders grizzly protections
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
November 23, 2011
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that grizzly bear protections in the Yellowstone region must remain in place, despite what the court called "an impressive inter-agency, multi-state cooperative blueprint for long-term protection and management of a sustainable grizzly population." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had issued a rule that grizzlies no longer needed protections pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, but Tuesday’s ruling overturns that action. The resulting lawsuit, filed by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, was heard in a federal court in Montana, and the appeal then proceeded on to the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit ruling upheld one part of the earlier ruling, and overturned a second, significant portion of the ruling.
Tuesday’s ruling defined the role of the court:
"We address only those issues we are expressly called upon to decide pertaining to the legality of the Service’s delisting decision: first, whether the Service rationally supported its conclusion that a projected decline in whitebark pine, a key food source for the bears, does not threaten the Yellowstone grizzly population; and second, whether the Service rationally supported its conclusion that adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to maintain a recovered Yellowstone grizzly population without the ESA’s staunch protections.
"As to the first issue, we affirm the district court’s ruling that the Service failed to articulate a rational connection between the data in the record and its determination that whitebark pine declines were not a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly, given the lack of data indicating grizzly population stability in the face of such declines, and the substantial data indicating a direct correlation between whitebark pine seed availability and grizzly survival and reproduction."
"As to the second issue, we reverse the district court and hold that the Service’s determination regarding the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms was reasonable."
To learn more, read the Ninth Circuit court order (PDF).