A judge in Montana has ruled against the US Fish and Wildlife services and have put grizzly bears back on the Endangered Species List. This ruling officially cancels the hunting season for grizzly bears in both Wyoming and Idaho.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote in his ruling that the case was “not about the ethics of hunting.” Rather, he said, it was about whether federal officials adequately considered threats to the species’ long-term recovery when they lifted protections for more than 700 bears living around Yellowstone National Park.
He noted that an estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous U.S. and said it would be “simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst” not to consider the status of grizzlies outside the Yellowstone region, one of the few areas where they have bounced back.
This line of thinking is inconsistent with how wildlife is managed in North America. Animals are always managed in regions. For example black bears are considered endangered in Ohio, but that does not mean they are endangered every where. In fact both West Virginia and Pennsylvania two bordering states both have robust populations along with liberal hunting regulations.
Ohio’s management strategy has absolutely no bearing that of other regions. So why should the management decisions of the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem be contingent on other regions? The answer is it should not. That ecosystem should be managed on its own merit.
According to Wildlife Biologist Frank von Manen, who was a guest on the Meat Eater Podcast, the grizzly bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are stable and are at carrying capacity. This means that the bear populations are at a maximum of what the habitat can support.
State and federal officials reacted with disappointment. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said the ruling provided further evidence of flaws in the Endangered Species Act and the need for Congress to make changes. Some have suggest that congress needs to take action like they did for Grey Wolves by drafting specific legislation that removes the species from the list.
Real conservationist should look at this as another blow to the Endangered Species Act. The law was never meant to protect animals that are not endangered. This misuse will cause a revamping of the law and more then likely weaken it. This may hamper other recovery projects and endanger other wildlife.