Complying with Court order, FWS "relists" Grizzly bears in Yellowstone.
75 Fed. Reg. 14496 / Vol. 75, No. 58 / Friday, March 26, 2010 / Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2010–0021; 92220–1113–0000; C6; RIN 1018–AW97
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reinstatement of Protections for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Compliance With Court Order
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Final rule
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are issuing this final rule to comply with a court order that has the effect of reinstating the regulatory protections under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended, for the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and surrounding area. This rule corrects the grizzly bear listing to reinstate the listing of grizzly bears in the GYA. This final rule also takes administrative action to correct two associated special rules. DATES: This action is effective March 26, 2010. However, the court order had legal effect immediately upon being filed on September 21, 2009.
At the time, the grizzly bear delisting was celebrated as one of the successes of the Endangered Species Act and marked the recovery of a keystone species. A federal court recently ruled otherwise. For more information on the original decision to delist the grizzly bear, and the related litigation see prior ESA blawg, and New York Times. Photo from FWS.
EXCERPT: In a prior rule, FWS determined that the Yellowstone grizzly bear population was no longer an endangered or threatened population pursuant to the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), based on the best scientific and commercial data available. Robust population growth, coupled with State and Federal cooperation to manage mortality and habitat, widespread public support for grizzly bear recovery, and the development of regulatory mechanisms, brought the Yellowstone grizzly bear population to the point where making a change to its status was appropriate. Subsequently, three lawsuits challenging our decision were filed in Federal courts in Boise, Idaho, and in Missoula, Montana. Legal briefings in these cases were completed in 2008.
In the Montana case, the plaintiff presented four claims including: (1) The regulatory mechanisms to protect the grizzly once it is delisted are inadequate; (2) the Service did not adequately consider the impacts of global warming and other factors on whitebark pine nuts, a grizzly food source; (3) the population is unacceptably small and dependent on translocation of outside animals for genetic diversity; and (4) the Service did not properly consider whether the grizzlies were recovered across a significant portion of their range.
On September 21, 2009, the Montana District Court issued an order in which plaintiffs prevailed on the first and second counts, while the United States prevailed on the third and fourth counts. The court’s order vacated the delisting and remanded it to the Service. Thus, this final rule is required to correct the Yellowstone grizzly bear population’s listing status. The United States is considering whether to appeal this decision. Regardless, this final rule is necessary because this process, should we move forward with an appeal, would likely take several years to complete.