Flouting a federal judge’s order to block Wyoming from hunting grizzlies, state legislators overwhelmingly supported a bill that would allow wildlife officials to move ahead with an illegal hunt.

The House of Representatives on Monday approved Senate File 93 by a vote of 52-7. Having passed both chambers of the Legislature, the bill needs only Gov. Mark Gordon’s signature to go into effect.

It would authorize the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to conduct a hunt in defiance of U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen’s ruling that restored the species’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

The bears were delisted in 2017 after decades of protection, and in September wildlife officials scheduled the first hunt for generations in the Rockies. They planned to issue licenses for 23 of the 700 or so bears estimated to live in the region.

But Christensen revoked the state’s jurisdiction over grizzlies in the Yellowstone area, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred in delisting the species in the first place.

Wyoming politicians condemned the ruling. Even U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney chimed in to scold the judge from Missoula, Montana, arguing the bears have indeed recovered and that the state should have the authority to manage its wildlife as it sees fit.

In fact, the bill attributes the bears’ recovery to “the efforts of the state of Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the citizens of the state.”

Legislators realize the implications of disregarding Christensen’s order. Senate File 93 contains a few crucial “mays,” as opposed to “shalls,” making the hunt a possibility rather than a command.

“The reason we don’t say ‘shall’ is because we can’t ask our Game and Fish people to be convicted felons,” Sen. Eli Bebout, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide last month. “That’s what it would do if we did that.”

The legislation would also allow Game and Fish to relocate bears — if they deem it necessary to protect Wyoming citizens and tourists — to “states with a grizzly bear population below the threshold for Endangered Species Act protection or to other willing states with suitable habitat.”

“Frankly, I think this is a good way to help meet those recovery objectives,” said Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Sublette, who introduced the amendment.

Teton County legislators Reps. Jim Roscoe and Andy Schwartz, and Sen. Mike Gierau voted for the bill. Rep. Mike Yin opposed it.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911, town@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGtown.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

(22) comments

Devin Miller

70 grizzlies died...yeah because some of those were poached.... Wyoming has a dismal record of wildlife management. Isn’t that the state that defends running down and running over predators with snowmobiles as an acceptable sport? With a legislature full of pathetic losers who turned their backs on recent legislation to outlaw that barbaric perversion? Yea...thought so. Real ethical! Cheney has only one interest in mind and that’s big oil and big money...but if it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy claiming she actually cares about her constituents you go right ahead and tuck yourself in. You might not like a judges decision but if one says the guy who killed your family is quilty and should die in jail but your state says someone can possibly set him free you might be a bit outraged at the audacity of those arrogant self-serving politicians who believe they are above the law and are smarter than a respected and intelligent judge who is one of many who form a necessary part of a now crumbling democracy (due in part to Wyoming), a democracy that your grandkids might never know. What the heck is wrong with the lawmakers in Wyoming? Can’t take the time to follow due process? Sorry to say not a single article, opinion, editorial or anything I’ve come across in many years says anything but Wyoming needs to pull its head out of the sand and stop acting like it’s 1890....and now the legislature proves them all right.

Chad guenter

Devin Miller: Please educate yourself before you say things you have no idea about. Please review 2018's mortality report and let me know where you find poaching?

Ignorant political rants usually have no basis in Fact.

https://www.usgs.gov/data-tools/2018-known-and-probable-grizzly-bear-mortalities-greater-yellowstone-ecosystem

Judy Malone

So Wyoming goes rogue.
What an appalling sham "wildlife management" is, when it exists only to serve the few grizzly killers and wolf haters. The will of a federal court, a vast majority of citizens, and many millions of tourists who visit each year count for nothing at all. If this is truly now a signature away from a spring hunt, one can only hope the man who wields the pen pauses to consider the consequence.

Chad guenter

Ms. Malone: Did you read this part?
"""The legislation would also allow Game and Fish to relocate bears — if they deem it necessary to protect Wyoming citizens and tourists — to “states with a grizzly bear population below the threshold for Endangered Species Act protection or to other willing states with suitable habitat.”""""

They dont have to be killed. The Wyoming population of bears does need to be controlled/lessened. Send them to the State with a Griz on the State Flag!

Judy Malone

It read that part, it did not impress. But do see they are being cautious in wording at least some recognition of the illegality here. It is in the majority view the population of hunters that needs to be controlled.

Chad guenter

The population of hunters IS already controlled. It's called limited tags, closed seasons, etc. Also, what the "majority" views/thinks/etc. is irrelevant, unless you appreciate MOB rule.

Judy Malone

I read that part, it did not impress. But do see they are being cautious in wording at least some recognition of illegality here. It is in the majority view the population of hunters that needs to be controlled.

Ken Chison

A biased Federal court, Judy. Management of grizzlies was already turned over to the state of Wyoming. Deemed recovered, Wyoming proceeded to do the correct thing in hunting the bears. Conflicts will only continue to rise if the bears are not once again managed. Don't you understand, anything in the federal government's hands is going to go badly. Opponents need a nice walk thru the thoroughfare with a pork chop tied around their neck.

Chad guenter

Looks like 65 grizzlies died in 2018. Will probably be revised higher (maybe over 70) in the spring when carcasses are found that expired before the end of last year. Interesting that they have also broken the numbers into 3 categories to include """"Documented known and probable grizzly bear mortalities that occurred during 2018 outside the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA).""""

Once again showing the number of bears has not only saturated but is vastly overflowing their suitable/ideal habitat.

Every year that passes the grizzly deaths will continue to rise.

Chad guenter

The sooner the Citizens this nation wash their hands of the corrupt/bloated/bankrupt(financially and morally) Federal Government the better.

Jay Westemeier

It's not just the Federal government Chad. If you believe that Wyoming legislators and Liz Chaney are really fighting for the majority of their constituents, you're fooling yourself. They're defying the ruling to appease big gas and oil. Nothing worries the gas and oil drillers more than having a threatened or endangered species inhabiting the land that they want access to. Expansion of the grizzly bear population scares them to death.

Chad guenter

Mr: Westemeier: I cant say for sure, but most likely Ms. Cheney should probably be behind bars like her father.

Terry Schramm

The results of the last election proves you wrong. Liz got 66% of the vote from the Wyoming population. The legislators are doing exactly what the vast majority of Wyoming people want. Wyoming is not a western colony for the east and west coast states.

Ken Chison

Well said Terry. Just like Yin not representing my conservative interests, due to the fact that there are way too many liberals in Jackson Hole. I laugh at the misinformed commenters who think BP or Exxon is behind hunting grizzlies. Emotions are all these people have and 90 percent probably don't venture outside the Moose to Moran hiway.

Jay Westemeier

The fact is that Wyoming is nothing but a part time getaway for the wealthy, and the majority of them probably come from the east and west coasts. Otherwise, the state would have an even smaller population with a majority that just doesn't take the time or initiative to vote on anything. How else can you explain the plethora of wealthy ranchers in the Wyoming legislature? And, as always, those legislators continue to only look after their own interests because of the tiny and unconnected population they are supposed to represent. Do you actually believe that group of legacy legislators support business and industrial expansion in Wyoming that doesn't fall within their own interests? The state's economic and voting history proves what I've stated. Conservatives and liberals could all do better if there was more diversity within its own legislature. The state's been stuck in 1800's ideology for too long.

Terry Schramm

Jay, you have confuse Jackson Hole with Wyoming. Not even close.

Jay Westemeier

I'll take back what I stated if you can provide proof otherwise Mr. Schramm. A little research will show that at least 1/3 of Wyoming senators and representatives are connected to the ranching, oil, gas, or mineral industries. And their voting records show exactly who they are representing.

Terry Schramm

Yep, they are representing the major of the people and elections prove it. The reason you may not feel represented is that they may disagree with everything you say.

Jay Westemeier

So, we'll have to assume you and every other person that lives in Wyoming are either a ranch worker, outfitter or oil and gas worker. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the oil and gas industry provided approximately 18,000 direct and indirect jobs in Wyoming last year. About 70% of those jobs were held by Wyoming residents. Hunting outfitters provided 3100 jobs with about 75% being held by Wyoming residents. Livestock ranchers provided a whopping 310 direct jobs to Wyoming residents. That's a total of 15,235 jobs provided by those three industries to Wyoming residents. Total employment figures for Wyoming show that 267,980 people held jobs in Wyoming last year. It doesn't show the percentage of that total held by Wyoming residents. Wyoming's population is approximately 580,000 with 270,000 registered voters. So, you honestly believe that Wyoming legislators are looking out for the majority of Wyoming residents? You'll have to explain your math to me so I can better understand where you're coming up with your conclusion.

Ken Chison

Right on again Terry. Our representatives do have the interest of the majority of Wyoming voters in mind. Learn to ignore the infamous Google king, who has to resort to his laptop for his statistics. But hey, a week a year in JH will make anybody an expert on all things Wyoming. My representatives are the voice for many sportsman, electrical workers, railroad workers, construction workers, miners in the coal and trona industries, truckers, operators and so many others. Along with our hard working oil and gas workers who have made the USA the number one exporter of gas and oil in the world! Those that are clueless and believe nothing more than what their desktop PC says, don't know how most everyone of us voting are ultimately tied to each other on a wide array of issues.

Jay Westemeier

Never once did I disparage the industries I mentioned. I was just making the point that Wyoming's legislators have a lot of motives behind how they vote and the average Joe isn't on top of their list. If you think they want you guys to hunt grizzlies because YOU want to or because they think it's what's best for the bears, it's prime time for your sheering along with the rest of the sheeple in Wyoming.

Ken Chison

Yawn!

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