The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) this week restored grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the U.S threatened species list, following a court decision that turned on how to accurately count and restore the population.
The agency’s action complies with a ruling by a federal judge last year that said FWS’s 2017 removal of the grizzlies from the list violated the Endangered Species Act. The delisting, first proposed during former President Barack Obama’s administration, would have allowed limited hunting of Yellowstone bears for the first time in more than 40 years. The agency had based the delisting on evidence that the Yellowstone population, one of six in the continental United States, had grown. Environmental groups and Native American tribes sued to block the action.
In a September 2018 ruling, U.S. District Court of Montana Judge Dana Christensen said the delisting was not based on state-of-the-art science for estimating bear populations and that the federal government could not divide the grizzly population into smaller segments without considering the health of the species as a whole.
The long-running dispute over the bears may not be over. Legislation to delist them yet again was introduced in February by Senator Mike Enzi and Representative Liz Cheney, two Republicans representing Wyoming. They argue the population of Yellowstone bears has recovered to a healthy level.