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Agency and Court Play Grizzly Bear Ping Pong

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for the grizzly bear population of Yellowstone National Park in compliance with an order from the Federal District Court in Montana.

The court determined that when the agency delisted the bears 2007, it did not adequately consider the impacts of global warming on the bear's food sources, and whether or not the grizzly would be sufficiently protected by existing regulatory mechanisms once Endangered Species Act protections were removed.

The Yellowstone grizzly population was first protected under the federal act in 1975, when only 136 bears lived in the park. By 2006, the population had rebounded to more than 500 bears.

The environmental group Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed suit against the agency's delisting, arguing that grizzly bears in the lower-48 states had been reduced to one percent of their historic range and about two percent of their historic numbers due to livestock grazing, hunting, and habitat destruction.

National parks are among the few places with enough of the right kind of terrain to support a bear population. Each female needs a home range of 50 to 300 square miles, and each male needs 200 to 500 square miles, and the habitat encompasses diverse forests interspersed with moist meadows and grasslands in or near mountains.

The agency has not determined if it will appeal the court's order.

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