By a 2020 court ruling, grizzly bears retain full federal protection across the U.S. Idaho’s governor is the latest to challenge this and fail.
In early February, Gov. Brad Little announced his plan to to sue the federal government over grizzly conservation via the Endangered Species Act. Little (and the Idaho government he spearheads) would ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to remove the species from the act and list for all Lower 48 states.
Idaho’s argument hinged on the “outdated” nature of grizzly bear protection, as the laws in place are based on “an area defined in 1975.”
The following day, federal officials would announce their rejection of Idaho’s petition. Yet the USFWS also indicated that similar proposals by Wyoming and Montana “merited closer examination,” Idaho’s Lewiston Tribune reported. Officials will spend the next year studying petitions from these neighboring states as a result.
Decades-Long Battle Over Grizzly Bear Protection Continues
‘We cannot continue to accept vague excuses and inexplicable delays by USFWS representatives concerning grizzly bear delisting,” Gov. Little wrote in his Feb. suit. “The current listed entity does not meet the definition of ‘species’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”
According to Little, “We have robust grizzly bear populations that continue to cause conflict in our rural communities, and we have addressed the concerns of prior judicial reviews.”
In comparison to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (mainly Wyoming and Montana), Idaho has few grizzly bears. The state holds around 50 in the northern tip, with a small fraction of the Yellowstone population in their southeast corner. Yet Little’s suit called for the removal of protection for all Lower 48 states. Within his 2023 suit, Little maintained that the “60,000 grizzly bears in both Canada and Alaska” is more than enough evidence to remove the species from the ESA’s “endangered” status.
‘The Montana and Wyoming petitions may be warranted but Idaho’s was unconvincing’
In 2022, all three states would petition USFWS to remove grizzly protections in and around Yellowstone National Park. The park resides in all three states, with Montana also including their Glacier National Park. Thousands of grizzlies currently reside in these areas.
In an update on the 2023 suit, Lewiston Tribune reveals that Gov. Little sent a letter to Interior Sec. Deb Haaland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams threatening to file a lawsuit if the agency didn’t act on his/Idaho’s petition. The Fish and Wildlife Service would respond with an advanced note in the Federal Register on Feb. 3.
“The Montana and Wyoming petitions may be warranted but Idaho’s was unconvincing,” the trade cites.
“We also found that a petition to delist the grizzly bear in the lower-48 states on the basis of it not being a valid listable entity did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted,: USFWS wrote. “Therefore, we will take no further action on that petition.”
A similar debate rages on over the protection of gray wolves.