September 22, 2009

Grizzlies Listed As Threatened Species Again

Yellowstone Grizzly bears are returning to the threatened species list, according to a federal court order on Monday.

The grizzly bear species was announced to have rebounded in March 2007, but many are once again threatened by changes in their habitat, primarily in how climate change has rid the region of whitebark pines, which the bears rely on.

Judge Donald Molloy issued a 46-page decision on Monday to restore protections for the grizzly bear, which resides primarily in and around the Yellowstone National Park region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

"There is a connection between whitebark pine and grizzly survival," wrote Judge Molloy.

The whitebark pine has suffered from forest fires, pine beetles and other occurrences that are connected to climate change.

According to the Associated Press, although grizzly hunting is illegal, hunters killed at least 20 bears were killed last year either in self-defense or by mistake.

Molloy said a 2007 report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service did not emphasize the whitebark pine as an important factor in the bears' survival.

Additionally, he noted that state and federal conservation plans were not doing enough to protect the grizzly bear.

"There is a disconnect between the studies the agency relies on here and its conclusions," Molloy wrote.

"These studies still state that there is a connection between whitebark pine and grizzly survival."

"We're going to take some time with this ruling because it's so significant," the AP quoted Fish and Wildlife spokesman Matt Kales.

"This is obviously a pretty big policy matter for us. Our first and foremost concern remains with the status of the bear."

Republican US Rep. Cynthia Lummis said the ruling was an "abuse" of the Endangered Species Act.

"Subverting the Endangered Species Act through judicial activism under the auspice of climate change would be laughable if the impacts weren't so dire for Wyoming's public land users," she said.


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