Our fight to protect grizzly bears cleared a hurdle this week, when a federal court gave the green light to a lawsuit challenging the premature delisting of Yellowstone-area grizzlies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had filed a motion to indefinitely pause the case filed by The HSUS and the Fund for Animals last year, challenging the politically motivated removal of federal protections for the bears.
The court rejected the FWS motion and allowed the lawsuit to proceed without delay.
States surrounding Yellowstone National Park have pressured FWS to ignore available science and turn grizzly bear management over to the states. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (whose Chief Game Warden, Brian Nesvik, is a Shikar-Safari Club International honoree) is moving to open up a season on the rare and much-beloved grizzly bears who live in the vicinity of Yellowstone this fall. The current proposal would set a quota of 24 bears, and even allow inhumane hunting methods like baiting in some areas.
Until April 30, Wyoming Game and Fish will take public comments on the proposal. It will render its decision at a hearing in Casper on May 23.
As part of an agreement with Idaho and Montana, Wyoming gets the lion’s share of the trophy-hunting opportunities for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears: 58 percent to Wyoming for bears outside of the national parks, while Montana gets 34 percent and Idaho gets eight percent.
When asked why Wyoming wants to open a season while Montana (and British Columbia) wildlife officials have opted not to, Nesvik replied, “It’s great that states get the opportunity to make the decision.” It’s not surprising that Nesvik thinks so, but there is a reason why state governments should not get to decide the fates of rare species. Local officials, who cater to ranchers and local outfitting guides, disenfranchise the millions of Americans who don’t want grizzly bears slaughtered for a few trophy hunters seeking to have their portrait taken over a dead bear while gloating and showing off their high-caliber weapons on social media.
Wyoming wildlife officials admitted that they knew the hunt would be controversial. In formal comment letters and in open meetings, there was strong public opposition expressed against the hunt.
At immediate risk from a trophy hunting season in Wyoming would be celebrity bears, like female 399, who is often seen in areas just outside of Grand Teton National Park. She is more than 20 years old and has been a successful mother. She and her beautiful cub will be put in the crosshairs if Wyoming opens up a grizzly bear hunting season.
The National Park Service notes that in 2016, eight million visitors went to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and spent $1.5 billion in local communities, which contributed to 17,600 jobs in the region. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and other state officials should realize that Yellowstone-area grizzly bears are far more valuable alive than dead. In the meantime, The HSUS’s litigation work will advance as part of our comprehensive effort to stop Wyoming’s grizzly bear hunt.