DENVER, Colo. (CN) – A court ruling regarding the removal of a wolf population from Endangered Species Act protection has spurred reconsideration of a similar decision for Yellowstone grizzlies. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s action to remove the Western Great Lakes population of gray wolves from federal protection.
“It is unsurprising to us that the service is having to hit the pause button,” Ralph Henry, HSUS Director of Litigation said in an interview. “The service was rolling the dice in delisting the grizzlies instead of waiting for the ruling on wolves. We're pleased the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering the implications of the court ruling concerning Great Lakes wolves on its recent decision to delist Yellowstone grizzlies. The service's grizzly delisting rule suffers from the same problems as the prior wolf delisting rule and the grizzly rule should be withdrawn. The service cannot address endangered species recovery in a piecemeal fashion. The court has basically rejected a piecemeal approach.”
The fate of imperiled wolf and bear populations has been hotly contested for many years, and even more so this year, with conservationists demanding strict adherence to the principles underlying the Endangered Species Act, and ranching and industry interests favoring depredation control or even eradication programs for predator species. It is often up to the federal agencies charged with management of these species and the courts to sort out the differences.
The service’s notice of regulatory review announced Wednesday is actually an unusual move for the agency. Their strategy of breaking up listed species into separate populations and then selectively downlisting or delisting those populations is now under the legal microscope due to recent court rulings and ongoing litigation. The agency has opened a public comment period on the matter of the grizzlies, but stressed that the Yellowstone grizzly “final delisting rule remains in effect and the status of grizzly bears throughout the rest of the range remains unchanged” during this process.
In December 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted, or removed, the Western Great Lakes distinct population segment or DPS of gray wolf from ESA protection. The Humane Society of the United States and other conservation groups fought the delisting action in District Court, which ruled against the agency. The service then appealed, and in August of this year, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling.