Wyoming and two neighboring states lost decision-making authority over grizzly bears with a federal judge’s ruling more than 10 months ago, but it wasn’t until this week that the federal government formally completed the paperwork to comply.

The “relisting” of grizzly bears as a federally classified “threatened” animal under the Endangered Species Act became a done deal Tuesday. The last step was publishing a final rule in the Federal Register, a document that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson signed off on.

“Per the September 24, 2018, court order, any and all grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are once again listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act,” Everson wrote in a letter accompanying the rule. “Because the Court vacated the entire 2017 delisting rule, all grizzly bears in the lower 48 States are again listed as threatened.”

The environmental groups whose legal complaints led to U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen’s decision cheered the finality of the issue, at least for now.

“It is just good to see it in writing,” Victor, Idaho, resident and Center for Biological Diversity attorney Andrea Santarsiere said.

“All grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, including Yellowstone’s magnificent bears, warrant federal protections under the Endangered Species Act until the species is truly recovered,” she said. “We are prepared to fight to ensure these bears get the continued protections that they deserve.”

Congressional delegates for the states, which signed on as intervenors in the lawsuit, predictably had a much different perception of the news.

“The grizzly is fully recovered in Wyoming,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said in a statement. “End of story.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service first moved to delist the bear almost 15 years ago,” Barrasso said. “The last three administrations made the determination that the grizzly bear was recovered.”

Ruling out of Missoula, Montana, Christensen put a stop to planned grizzly bear hunts by issuing a restraining order last fall hours before the season was going to open. Ultimately, he concluded that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service misinterpreted science about genetic connectivity and that the agency erred by allowing Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to change how they count grizzlies at some point in the future. An appeal is underway.

An estimated 700 grizzlies reside in portions of the Yellowstone region where populations are estimated, although the occupied range of Ursus arctos horribilis has expanded significantly outside of that area.

Wyoming lawmakers, frustrated with the ruling, authorized the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to shirk the rule of law, and allow the hunting of grizzlies even though they are federally classified as threatened. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission considered taking that step but decided against it, not wanting to make felons out of its licensed hunters.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(19) comments


The little one in the picture dragging its face on the pavement looks a little defective. Some of them are born to be roadkill. Tourism is the new nature control.

Rusty Muesing

How come only the highly educated desk bound individual's know what is best for all the wild animal's & Mother Nature?

Ralph Maughan

NW Wyoming is not at all like Africa. Maybe big game hunting in Africa helps keep the locals from killing it off. Maybe not. I've heard it both ways, but in Wyoming there are no subsistence farmers. A grizzly bear entertaining tourists in Grand Teton or helping keep the Wyoming mountains wild is worth more than hunting this animal. If Wyoming thinks it has too many griz, please trap some and send them our way in Idaho! We need to get them started in central Idaho and maybe more places.

Tony Rutherford

When WF&G set the season last year with a 20+/- quota......but stated that as soon as the first sow was taken all hunting would cease.......they were essentially conveying that the grizzly population was couldn't support hunting. If any species can't tolerate the removal of even a single breeding female......hunting that species can't be the right thing to do.

William Addeo

All of the countries in Africa, starting with Kenya, that have banned hunting, the animal population declines rapidly. You take away the value of the animal and the naitves will poach for food or ivory. 40 years ago I worked n Guatemala and game animals were abundant. Since the hunting ban, the naives have eaten all the animals. No hunting, no game management. No value. This is well known by all international game managers. Everything else is emotional animal extinction. Compassion is killing the bears and soon they will be gone. Ask anyone who lives in Alaska. These are the facts....

Grant Spellerberg

I am not saying that hunting should be banned. There is no reason that wildlife cant be protected/preserved and still have hunters. The problem arises when we try to be "God" and don't let nature do its job of survival of the fittest. Long before humans started to intervene with management programs wildlife managed itself without issue. It only becomes problematic when we try to place value on some animals and not on others. Nature realizes that all organisms, whether the smallest or largest are intertwined, and when there is an outside influence it throws off the balance. Granted at this stage we do have to intervene to some point but it still has been proven that if allowed nature heals itself and restores the balance that is needed to assure a healthy ecosystem. Compassion is not killing anything; human ignorance is.

William Addeo

"Try to be God." Bringing wolves in to do your job is a little like letting children run the candy factory. Animals declined in Africa when they ban hunting. Letting nature take it's course is just a saying. Animals will eat everything then move on to find more. They don't plan for tomorrow like hunters do. Hunting has seasons and bag limits. Wolves and bears don't. This is not even debatable it's purely emotional. More bears are not better. It's called "Carrying capacity." The real problem here is that animals have taken on a human nature by naming them and over watching them. Nobody wants tot kill pets. These are savages, not pets. They will eat you for dinner and move on. Read about the man-eaters of Tsavo. They actually pass on man-eating through the blood line. Remember, a conservative is a liberal that got mugged. You will think different up close and personal with a wild bear. I have fifty years experience in wild game management all over the world. I want them here forever.

Grant Spellerberg

Wolves had to be brought "back" because we wiped them out. I am disheartened that you are ignorant of how ecosystems really work. When man interferes is when problems begin. Hunters are the reason wolves were wiped out. Look at YNP and you don't see wildlife being wiped out: on the contrary you see it thriving. That is because of predators and no human interference; think about it. If you believe that animals would rather eat people than other animals then I would have to think that you truly do not know anything about how nature works. Sad!!

Jay Westemeier

What goes on in Africa has nothing to do with what is happening here with grizzly bears. If you want to spout off about your world travels as an almighty big game hunter, why not stick to doing so on one of the ridiculous trophy hunting sites where you can command the attention you crave from your shrinking exclusive club.

Chad guenter

Don't hunt the grizzlies??? Expect increasing bear deaths every year, and more bear /human conflict deaths on the fringes of the GYE.

That is a FACT already proven in the last half dozen years. Hunt or no hunt LOTS of bears will die unnatural and bear on bear deaths every year in increasing numbers.

Lanny Lammers

I don't have a problem with naming bears or hunting them BUT they are quite lovely, have you ever watched the movie THE BEAR? Little Bear actually talked alot, mother was Compassionate to human child too. Does either side have any compassion? 700 Grizz ain't much but maybe enough.

I think Protecting your property by downing a problem Grizz is ok BUT we really don't need a SEASON for LITTLE MEN to shoot Grizz.

William Addeo

"Biological diversity attorneys." Sounds important? I am a world renowned ecological environmental geologically attuned animal rights advocate who specializes in wild game management and rights worldwide.

Animals have no rights except what we give them. We have too many bears and they need to be hunted like animals. Giving them names enamors them to emotional humans who know nothing about game management. Such a shame.

Jay Westemeier

You sound pretty emotional about this Bill.

Jay Westemeier

Think about it Bill. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is comprised of 34,375 square miles (18 million acres). That computes to about 1 bear per 50 square miles or .02 bear per square mile. Where you live in Florida, there are about 1850 people per square mile. No wonder you're so unhappy.

Grant Spellerberg

Hey Will, I have never heard of you except in these forums. That isn't world renowned. You continue to amaze with your backward thinking on animal rights. The only thing shameful here is your thoughtless disregard for animals due to your self proclaimed ability to "manage" wildlife.

William Addeo


Have you ever heard of Richard Leakey, Peter Beard, John Sharp, Simon Evans and I could go on with dozens more that I have worked with. Theses are Africa's best Game Wardens and game managers. Decades of years in charge of Africa's wild animals. Read their books. Study game management. Go to Africa like I have dozens of times for months on end working with game managers. You are entitled to your opinion, not your own set of facts of which you are not experienced in.

With all due respect, it is the hunter who wants to preserve the animals for tomorrow like I have been doing for over fifty years. My first trip to Africa was when hunting was still legal in Kenya and animals were plentiful. Since the hunting ban, poachers have decimated the game and Kenya went from 150,000 elephants to today, less than 5,000. I am open for questions if you are open to debate.

Thank you for your time.

Grant Spellerberg


With all due respect to you, I do not understand how Africa's best game managers and game wardens with decades in charge of Africa's wild animals have let wild game numbers collapse. The fact that, as in your example, elephant populations have declined this much due to poachers, imagine how bad it would be if they were still being hunted legally. How does banning hunting increase the threat to game animals? My point is that there will always be poachers; maybe there should be more law enforcement to hunt them down and eliminate that threat. If anything the animals need more protection not less.

Terry Schramm

Mike, please stop with the “Felicia , Pepper monickers . I understand the desire of animal rights activists to humanize flesh-eating carnivores, but the public media should have no such agenda.

Jay Westemeier

Agenda? What exactly is your agenda Terry in criticizing something that really doesn't amount to anything. Would you rather the JHNG post a photo of your rifle you named Big Bertha?

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