US officials to lift Yellowstone grizzly bear protections

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For the first time in more than 40 years, grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park are leaving the federal government's protections list for endangered species.

Grizzly Bear recovery Coordinator Hilary Cooley said from her office at the University of Montana that the delisting could have happened back in 2007, but a court challenge left the bears with endangered species protections for another decade. The Yellowstone population of the grizzly bear was as low as 136 bears in 1975, when they were added to the protection list.

Pacelle said the Humane Society and a coalition of other advocacy groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve federal protection for the Yellowstone bears. Conservation groups have slammed the decision to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act.

The question that has plagued every conversation about Yellowstone grizzlies for well over a year was finally answered today.

The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem (GYE) distinct population segment (DPS) consists of portions of northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana and eastern Idaho.

Gov. Mead also praised the decision in a news release issued June 22.

A grizzly bear cub searches for fruit by an apple tree a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont.

The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service announced the delisting decision Thursday, which immediately drew rebukes from conservationists and Democrats. It might help soothe - I guess would be the best word - some of the ill feelings that exist between, let's say, sportsmen, ranchers, residents who feel that they haven't had any say on grizzly bears for decades.

But the delisting decision is also highly controversial and nearly certain to be challenged in court by conservation organizations that still view the bears as vulnerable to both human and environmental threats. Grizzly bears will be killed through trophy hunts on the doorstep of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks instead of inspiring millions who come to the region just for a chance to see a live grizzly bear in the wild. "Until natural connectivity with the northern grizzly population occurs, scientific studies make clear that a minimum population of closer to 2,000 bears would be needed to maintain long-term genetic diversity". Laurie Wolf, a spokeswoman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, wouldn't say when Montana might propose hunting, but said when it does, decisions will go through the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission, the five-member body that sets hunting seasons on game animals in the state. The NPS says the bears - which generally roam in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho - "have gradually expanded their occupied habitat by more than 50%". All other bear populations outside the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will continue to be protected. "Grizzly conservation has made significant strides, but the work to restore these handsome bears has a long way to go". "As a Montanan, I'm proud of what we've achieved together", Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement.

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