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Federal government appeals grizzly ruling

CODY — Federal government attorneys filed an appeal to overturn a portion of last fall’s court ruling that sent the Yellowstone grizzly bear back under Endangered Species Act protection.

Meeting a deadline just prior to the Memorial Day weekend, papers were filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals contending part of the reasoning of the U.S. court in Missoula Sept. 24 was faulty.

The appeal challenges the linking of the Yellowstone grizzly to other Lower 48 populations of the species. The federal government announced an intention to appeal last December.

This appeal states Fish and Wildlife “accurately interpreted and explained” that according to “the best available science” the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population “is not threatened by genetic factors.”

Furthermore, the appeal reads, “the judgment of the district court should be reversed” and the Service should not have to conduct a “comprehensive review of the entire listed species.”

The government writes, “the district court’s order goes beyond the appropriate remedy.”

After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Yellowstone grizzly and returned management to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho in 2017, declaring the bear was a recovered species, several conservation and Native American groups filed lawsuits opposing the transfer.

The Service’s decision followed decades of study and population growth indicating that by surpassing 700 bears the animal had met all recovery criteria since it had first been given protection in the 1970s.

As part of its management plan, Wyoming Game and Fish set in motion a plan to institute a limited hunt last fall because grizzlies were roaming into fresh communities and the incidence of human-bear encounters were on the rise.

Missoula district court Judge Dana Christensen instead returned the bear to the ESA list, placing a hold on any hunting plan.

In response to this latest development, Andrea Santasiere, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, called the appeal maneuver a “waste of more time and money trying to defend the illegal decision to pull Yellowstone’s grizzly bears off the endangered species list. These bears still need federal protection and we’ll fight to defend the lower court’s decision.”

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