Some Idaho grizzlies may lose the protection of the endangered list

In this 2004 photo, a female bear eats grass in Yellowstone National Park.  Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem could lose Endangered Species Act protections as part of a new federal review of their recovery.

In this 2004 photo, a female bear eats grass in Yellowstone National Park. Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem could lose Endangered Species Act protections as part of a new federal review of their recovery.

National Park Service

A day after Idaho officials threatened to sue the federal government for failing to respond to requests to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would reconsider the exit of the bearish position will advance – although it will not. Consider the case of Idaho.

Fish and Wildlife released findings Friday on petitions from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho that sought delisting. Idaho’s petition was the most extensive, asking officials to revoke protections for all grizzly bears in the United States. Wyoming and Montana have requested the removal of bears from the northern continental shelf and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems.

Federal officials said the allegations in Idaho’s petition were not sufficient for further review, but Wyoming and Montana were sufficient to begin reviewing the status of grizzlies in the two ecosystems.

A review of the situation could be the first step toward removing grizzlies from the Endangered Species Act, potentially leading to a better grizzly hunting season in Idaho. Already, the decision has drawn protests from conservation groups who say it could threaten the bears’ recovery, and from Idaho politicians who blasted Idaho’s denial of the request.

The withdrawal will affect some of Idaho’s grizzlies

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision comes 11 months after Idaho’s request was filed and more than a year after Montana’s and Wyoming’s requests.

On Thursday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s office announced plans to sue the federal government if officials don’t respond to the request by early April. Little’s office said federal officials ignored the original 90-day response deadline when filing the requests.

In a statement emailed to the Idaho Statesman, Little said his office “continues to push back against the federal government” and called the decision an example of federal overreach.

“The response was seven months late and it took threats of legal action to get a response from the state of Idaho,” Little said.

The federal agency’s findings begin a 12-month review of the status of bears in the Greater Yellowstone and Continental Northern ecosystems.

While the Northern Continental Divide region is entirely in Montana, the Greater Yellowstone region includes parts of Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern edge of Idaho. Idaho also includes Bitterroot region and parts of Selkirk and Kabinet-Jacque regions. Grizzly bears in these areas — all in North Idaho — are not part of the delisting review.

In his statement, Little said the decision by Fish and Wildf will disproportionately affect North Idaho.

If bears lose their “threatened” status in these two ecosystems, it It won’t be the first time The grizzly defense has changed. Since they were first listed in 1975, they have been delisted from the Endangered Species Act twice, in 2007 and 2017. In 2018, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game established the hunt. a single grizzly in eastern Idaho before a judge returned the bears to threatened status.

While Fish and Wildlife said in its findings that grizzly populations have improved in the Greater Yellowstone and Continental North regions, it also noted some potential obstacles.

The federal agency applauded the recovery efforts of the three states, but said “the impact of recently enacted state laws affecting these two grizzly bear populations is concerning and requires careful review.”

The decision did not refer to specific state laws, but conservation groups in recent years appealed to the court Idaho’s expanded wolf trapping laws, they say, could lead to the accidental trapping of grizzlies and lynx. Judge denied the claim.

Idaho congressmen criticize the decision

Several conservation groups released statements Friday criticizing the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to review the bears’ status. The Center for Biological Diversity said the move “could pave the way for grizzly bear hunting in parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.”

Derek Goldman, national field director for the Endangered Species Coalition, said in an emailed statement to the Statesman that he is pleased the Fish and Wildlife Service is challenging state laws that could threaten the recovery of grizzlies.

“Given the current trajectory of public policy in Montana and Idaho, state management would be a disaster for grizzly bear recovery and the people of Montana, Idaho and the nation,” Goldman said.

Statements from the Western Basin Project and the Wildland Conservancy have expressed similar concerns.

Idaho’s congressional delegation also criticized the decision – but for very different reasons.

In joint statementSens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Russ Fulcher said they “condemn” the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to deny Idaho’s request.

“We stand with Governor Little and Idaho wildlife managers,” they said. “The failure of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide answers, transparency and science-based evidence for their decisions is unacceptable.”

In a statement, Rep. Mike Simpson said he was “disappointed” by the outcome. Neither legislator acknowledged the decision to review the grizzly population of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

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