WyFB disappointed in court decision to return grizzlies to ESA
September 25, 2018—The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation is disappointed by the Sept. 24 ruling by a federal judge to return the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear to the endangered species list and thus federal management–contrary to the recommendation of 20 years of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research.
“This shows that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is never about science but rather it is about emotion,” said Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President. “Anytime recovery goals are established you know that those goals are going to be rejected by the judicial branch and some well-heeled environmental lawyers/groups.”
“These well financed groups are not necessarily interested in seeing the species delisted but are instead anxious to preserve the federal agency’s control of state wildlife,” Hamilton continued. “The number of grizzly bears has long since reached recovery goals in the area. It is disappointing that we are now back to federal management. State management is essential to protecting Wyoming’s wildlife, landowners, and residents who are impacted by these large carnivores.”
Ranchers in western Wyoming have faced mounting losses to their sheep and cattle in recent years and have faced more frequent attacks on humans as the grizzly population has continued to swell in number and expand its territory. “This ruling will allow the grizzly population to continue to grow unfettered under federal management, endangering the lives and livelihoods of westerners who settled the region long ago,” said Cody Wisniewski of Mountain States Legal Foundation, lead attorney on the case.
Back in June 22, 2017 the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) had sufficiently recovered and were returned to state management. “We knew back then there would be legal challenges,” Hamilton continued. “It is unfortunate since the goals and numbers have been reached and surpassed to delist the species.”
According to Hamilton, this is yet another example of why the ESA needs reformed. “Establishing a more open and transparent process that allows parties to understand what the process and goals are would go a long way towards helping both the species and the people,” Hamilton stated. “Listing of species by the FWS and potential management programs has happened in a vacuum over the years thus not utilizing state input on issues that have a significant impact on state citizens.”
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead issued this response in a news release, “I am disappointed with the Sept. 24 decision. Grizzly bear recovery should be viewed as a conservation success story. Due to Wyoming’s investment of approximately $50 million for recovery and management, grizzly bears have exceeded every scientifically established recovery criteria in the GYE since 2003. Numbers have risen from as few as 136 bears when they were listed in 1975, to more than 700 today.”
“Biologists correctly determined grizzly bears no longer needed ESA protections,” Governor Mead noted. “The decision to return grizzly bears to the list of threatened and endangered species is further evidence that the ESA is not working as its drafters intended. Congress should modernize the ESA so we can celebrate successes and focus our efforts on species in need.”
–Montana Farm Bureau Federation