The majestic grizzly bears who live in Yellowstone received some wonderful news. Thanks to a US court ruling, the grizzlies of Yellowstone National Park will remain under federal protection. This means that they will not be allowed to be hunted for sport in the states of Wyoming and Idaho, where the national park is located.
A few years ago in 2017, the Yellowstone grizzly bears had their federal protection removed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Following that move, many organizations, indigenous groups, and individuals got together and sued the federal government agency over their decision. In 2018, a federal court made the ruling that the Trump administration had illegally removed the bears’ protections. Finally, it was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the ruling by agreeing that the grizzly bears of Yellowstone should remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, called it a major victory for the grizzly bears, as well as a triumph for everyone who was involved in making sure that the protections of the Endangered Species Act were upheld for the bears. In her statement, she added, “Grizzlies still have a long way to go before recovery. Hunting these beautiful animals around America’s most treasured national park should never again be an option.”
When the grizzly bears were first put on the Endangered Species Act in 1975, their numbers had dwindled to only 136 bears living in Yellowstone. After an assessment found that the numbers of grizzly bears had grown in recent years, the federal protections were removed. In 2019, it was estimated that there were 728 bears in the park, meaning that The US Fish and Wildlife Service felt it was a sign that the species had “recovered to the point where federal protections can be removed.” Following the recall of federal protection, both the states of Wyoming and Idaho were already making plans to have licensed grizzly bear hunts – something that hadn’t been done around Yellowstone National Park for more than 40 years.
But the court case ruled in favor of the bears as it stated that there was no scientific back up to justify the removal of federal protections. The court highlighted that there were no “concrete, enforceable mechanisms” that could “ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly.” Therefore, the bears had the right to protection.
As Zaccardi pointed out, the US Fish and Wildlife Service were too quick on the draw in removing the federal protections of the bears. She also revealed her hopes that the court ruling will mean that the government agency will refocus their energies on helping to restore the grizzly bear populations rather than trying to remove their much-needed protections.
While the ruling was a victory for all those who believe in environmental conservation, there were others who were upset with the news. Republican US Senator, John Barrasso, from Wyoming was dismayed at the news, arguing that there was enough of a recovery to allow hunting to resume. The senator was adamant that the state of Wyoming should have decided what to do with the grizzly bear populations, rather than a federal court.
While he may have his own opinion, the rest of us are happy to hear that the grizzly bear is still getting the federal protection they deserve in order to let their numbers continue to recover. With so much of our planet systematically being destroyed by humans, it is important that we take conservation efforts seriously – there is no planet B to fall back on.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.