Pronghorn antelope at Gardner entrance to Yellowstone National Park, MT.20160713 by Clint Nagel.



                  Gallatin Wildlife Association

                               Action Alerts:




Date: September 4, 2018


Immediate Action Alert: 

           Endangered Species Act Under Attack 


Hopefully by now, most of us have heard about the most recent threats to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Proposed changes to the ESA are contained in three major rulemaking decisions which were conducted by the Department of the Interior and/or the Department of Commerce and announced in the Federal Register on July 25, 2018.  Specifically, the most recent threat was formulated by two federal agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


They are contained in Section 4, 4d and Section 7 of the Act. In respective order they are the following:

  • Docket number - FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0006: Revision of the Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat,
  • Docket number - FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0007: Revision of the Regulations for Prohibition to Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
  • Docket number - FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0009: Revision of Regulations for Interagency.

Again and in respective order, these regulations would weaken endangered species protections by:


  • Wrongly injecting economics into what should be purely science-based decisions about listing imperiled species;
  • Depriving threatened species from automatically receiving protections from killing, trapping, and other forms of harm and commercial exploitation;
  • Further imperiling endangered species by blinding federal agencies to the broad consequences of their actions and limit what wildlife expert can look at in their reviews of federal activities.


In Summary:


The proposed changes have the potential to affect the ESA listings by: allowing economic analysis be considered on an equal basis as biological analysis, delisting of species, designation of critical habitat, removal of protections from threatened species, and reduce the need for intra-agency cooperation, and removal of baseline jeopardy for imperiled species.


Section 4: These proposed changes would basically reverse the practice and statute stating that economic impacts cannot be considered before species is listed as threatened or endangered. This proposal would allow economic consequences of listing to be considered. Even though proponents of this change could still say the decision could still ultimately be determined by the best available science, the cost of that decision could also be considered. This leaves the possibility open that the administration could give more leniency to oil, gas and energy companies when they want to perform explorations in protected habitat.


Section 4(d): These proposed changes will basically remove protections of threatened species. Currently threatened species have the same rules of protection as endangered species. This rule known as the 4(d) rule would remove that blanket protection. “The 4(d) rule instated in 1975 ensures that the take prohibitions that apply to federally endangered species also apply to federally threatened species in a blanket manner.” This would no longer be the case if this change would move forward thereby increasing the risk that threatened species will be deprived of needed protection.


Section 7: Under current law, federal agencies have to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to ensure their actions would not harm endangered or threatened species or destroy their habitats. Section 7 is an important concept of the ESA and proposed changes would lessen the need for interagency cooperation. 


To comment, you have to address each proposal separately on the Federal Register by September 24. Simply go to or click on each link below to read more and to provide comment.


If you want more examples of comments, please see my personal comments at the link below.





The Montana DNRC Limestone West Timber Sale

   Draft Environmental Impact Statement Needs                                    Comments Now!


We seem to live in a time when all challenges and threats are happening at the same time, this latest challenge perhaps is the largest threat locally to wildlife and their habitat. Even within their own draft EIS, it says this.


"Displacement of some species could occur for several decades depending on how much recreational use the area receives (user days), and the types of recreation. Both of these are somewhat uncertain into the future." 


and it says this:


"Displacement might cause elk, bears and moose to leave preferred feeding areas in spring, and winter, potentially affecting some individual animals."


How can this be good for wildlife? We URGE all citizenry to comment on this proposed timber sale right here in Bozeman's own backyard.


There is a 60 day public review period which ends Oct. 30, 2018.



            Grizzly bears Need Your Help Now!


Public comment opens today for proposed grizzly bear population administrative rule

Public comment on the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) grizzly bear population administrative rule starts today and ends Oct. 26.

The rule will provide a regulatory framework for the NCDE population objectives outlined in the conservation strategy recently completed by the NCDE subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and found here.

Comments should focus on the content of the proposed rule. Comments can be submitted in writing, via email or at the following public hearings.

Public Hearings

Sept. 18 – Great Falls, Great Falls College-MSU, 2100 16th Avenue S., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 19 – Conrad, High School, 308 S. Illinois St., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 26 – Missoula, Holiday Inn Downtown, 600 S. Pattee St., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 – Kalispell, Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive, 6:30 p.m.

Comments can be submitted either orally or in writing during the hearings. Comments can also be submitted by mail to Grizzly Bear ARM, Wildlife Division, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail, and must be received no later than Oct. 26, 2018. Comments can also be submitted online here.


The NCDE conservation strategy identifies a demographic monitoring area (DMA) that is home to the core population of grizzly bears in the NCDE. The DMA is comprised of the primary conservation area (which includes Glacier National Park and parts of five national forests including the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex), and an area identified as zone 1, which is a buffer zone outside the primary conservation area. The objective in this area, as detailed in the conservation strategy, is continual occupancy by grizzly bears, which will require maintaining good habitat conditions and adhering to population criteria.

Precise population estimates are difficult to obtain. The population objective for the DMA aims to continually maintain a population size above 800 bears with at least 90 percent certainty. Effectively, this would mean managing for a population of approximately 1,000 grizzly bears in the DMA.


Previous Action Alerts: Still Active

                              Wilderness Under Threat

Signage of Lee Metcalf Wilderness.Gallatin Nat'l Forest.MT.20170630 by Clint Nagel.


There are probably no greater threats to wildlife than the threat to wilderness. The Gallatin Wildlife Association is probably more conscious and fights for more wilderness issues than many other large NGO(s) that proclaim to be "wilderness organizations". The reason: because wildlife are more likely to congregate and survive in those areas that are "roadless". But as this mailer from Wilderness Watch indicates, our existing and our WSA(s) are totally under the gun as far as viability and integrity are concerned. Several alerts from other organizations have been pulled together to form this list of "bad wilderness bills". This forward summarizes many of the proposed legislative bills in Congress that would harm wilderness areas.



Many of these same issues are also found singularly below on this GWA webpage providing more information. 


The following links in this section will take you to the Wilderness Watch website to petition our Congressional Delegation.


In order to assist with our efforts with Congress, we are calling on Wilderness supporters to urge their senators and representative to oppose the most egregious, anti-Wilderness bills!


As you know, the list of anti-Wilderness bills in Congress is long. We’re focusing on the following bills:


  • The so-called "Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act"(H.R. 3668) an NRA/Safari Club International-backed bill that is nothing more than a thinly disguised measure to gut the 1964 Wilderness Act and the protections afforded to every unit of America’s 110 million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System.


  • The “Wheels in Wilderness Bill” (H.R. 1349), which would amend and weaken the Wilderness Act to allow mountain bikes, strollers, wheelbarrows, game carts, survey wheels and measuring wheels in Wilderness.


  • A couple of terrible “Border Bills” that purportedly deal with border security, but would actually threaten all of America's Wilderness areas within 100 miles of the southern border with Mexico and within 100 miles of the northern border with Canada, including the border between Alaska and Canada.


  • The so-called “Protect Public use of Public Lands Act" (S. 2206), which would release 450,000 acres of America’s Wilderness Study Areas in Montana and potentially open up these wildlands to logging, mining, motorized recreation and road building.
  • Then of course we have Representative Gianforte's recent introductions of  H.R. 5148, H.R. 5149.

One of Rep. Gianforte’s bills (H.R. 5148) is a companion bill to Senator Steve Daines’ S. 2206, which would open up the Big Snowies, the Middle Fork Judith, West Pioneers, Sapphire, and Blue Joint wilderness study areas – a half-million acres in all – to hard-rock mining, oil and gas development, and expanded motorized use.


His other bill (H.R. 5149) would do the same to 24 more wilderness study areas, including the Terry Badlands, the Centennials, and six areas within the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. According to a press release he issued last week, these areas comprise "over 240,000 acres ... that the Bureau of Land Management found not suitable for wilderness designation by 1980."


  • Any Senate companion bills to H.R. 3905 and H.R. 3115, two bills that promote new mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. H.R. 3905 and H.R. 3115, two bills that promote new mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. 




Please Act today!

                           Custer Gallatin National Forest 

                                     Forest Revision Plan

                                         Proposed Action

Photo taken up Hyalite Canyon by Clint Nagel.

We continue to move on through Phase II of the Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF) Revision Plan. While the public commenting period is over on the CGNF's Proposed Action (ending Mar.5th), the CGNF has released a varied list of alternatives for proposed wilderness. Alternative D is the alternative which proposes the most wilderness and the one which Gallatin Wildlife Association supports.




Alternative D is the alternative where we should start before any compromising commences. To do otherwise is simply undermining the resource as it is described in the Wilderness Act of 1964.


There is nothing that will be affecting the quality of wildlife or their habitat more than how federal lands, public lands are administered. For more information, you can click on the Forest Service links below. 


Here is the Plan itself: 



On the attached page, there are some notes provided by a friend of ours George Wuerthner. These specifically deal with wilderness. Please feel free to use if needed. To view please see the link above entitled "Notes on CGNF Proposed Action" or click:




Please send your comments to Senator Tester 


Senator Daines 


and Congressman Gianforte


Senate Bill 2206, the “Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act" needs to be defeated.

Crystal Lake, Big Snowy Mountains, Lewis and Clark NF, Montana by George Wuerthner


As if our natural world hasn’t been under enough attacks lately, Senator Daines has proposed one more in recent months. The Gallatin Wildlife Association (GWA) would like to address the proposed “legislative deal” the Senator announced last month; his support for “The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act” in lieu of legislation to remove wilderness study area (WSA) protections from 5 WSAs within the state of Montana. 


That legislation is known as Senate Bill 2206, the “Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act". In spite of what the name implies, the bill would actually remove protections from five (5) wilderness study areas. The five WSAs in question include the 151,000 acres of the West Pioneers, 94,000 acres of the Sapphire Mountains WSA, 81,000 acres from the Middle Fork Judith WSA, 32,500 acres of the Bitterroot’s Blue Joint WSA and 91,000 acres of the Big Snowies.


As a non-profit volunteer wildlife conservation organization, GWA cannot support such action. We represent hunters, anglers and other wildlife advocates in Southwest Montana and elsewhere. Our mission is to protect habitat and conserve fish and wildlife. The removal of wilderness study area protections from these 5 existing WSA(s) is in contradiction to that mission. We support the Montana constitution which states: “the opportunity to harvest wild game is a heritage that shall forever be preserved” and that “the legislature shall provide adequate remedies to prevent unreasonable depletion of natural resources.” This proposal also contradicts that mission.


West Fork Rock Creek, Sapphire Mountains, Beaverhead Deerlodge NF, Montana George Wuerthner

It is GWA’s position that removing existing protections would only open up these lands for further exploitation and road building. This would increase the need for more management, more government, and more dollars spent. There is already a serious maintenance backlog on public lands which need the full attention of resources and financial dollars. His proposed legislation would exasperate the problem, but yield nothing in return which would increase the protection of public use. His past actions regarding public lands indicate emphasis on resource extraction and on local control largely for economic benefits, at the expense of diverse regional and national interests. We disagree with the expansion and prioritization of local controls on our federal lands. It is the conservative approach to downsize government; your proposal contradicts that effort. He should focus on other areas in government that could be used to streamline and make government more efficient. It is in this regard, GWA believes that all “inventoried roadless areas” need protection for it is those areas that are critical for wildlife habitat and minimizes the need for more government action.


Below is a link from the Billings Gazette. It is their guest opinion piece that states that these WSAs should be protected, not disbandoned.


We urge all members and non-members alike to write Senator Daines and tell him to support the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act with no strings attached. And in the same effort, he should pull his legislation S. 2206 from the Senate floor and use his leadership ability to work toward finalization and protection of these lands rather than open them up for future exploitation and resource extraction.


Hiker above Blue Joint drainage, Bitterroot National Forest, Montana George Wuerthner

The SHARE Act is a bad Bill:


If it seems like the Share Act has been around for a long time; it has. First announced and voted on in early 2016 of the 114th Congress, it was known as H.R. 2406. The bill was reintroduced in the fall of 2017, known as H.R. 3668 in the 115th Congress. Like many bills as of late, many bills introduced have appealing sounding names, but their names have the opposite effect. The SHARE ACT, otherwise known as the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, is no different. All that being said, the bill, the idea is devastating for wildlife. It also sets bad precedent for wilderness. 

The long list of devastation in which the SHARE Act offers includes provisions you see below:

  • Undermine the ESA and the rule of law by legislatively delisting wolves in the Great Lakes region and upholding a recent court decision to delist wolves in Wyoming while barring judicial review of these decisions;
  • Allow wildlife trapping for the first time on many U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands;
  • Interfere with federal agencies’ ability to protect marine and coastal wildlife habitat – including sea turtle and seabird nesting beaches; and
  • Open pristine wilderness to road construction, allowing for the construction of "temporary" roads in Wilderness Areas,
  • Remove Wilderness Act laws that prohibit motorized vehicles and other activities that would degrade essential wildlife habitat,
  • Give hunting and fishing resources priority over the protection of wilderness characteristics in these areas,
  • Exempt the above activities from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review


The SHARE Act’s avalanche of anti-wildlife, anti-ESA provisions are only “generous” in their unabashed attempts to undermine wildlife conservation.


Please contact both Senator Daines and Tester today and urge them to OPPOSE the SHARE ACT (H.R. 3668).


We must defeat the SHARE Act.

Protect the Smith:



 Tintina stumbles over first regulatory hurdle: Much more to come.

   While the DEQ has approved Tintina's application for a permit, the process is only beginning. Make your voice heard today.

   What can you do?

  1. Write the Governor by clicking the take action button below
  2. Post your support for the Smith on your social media channels, tagging Governor Steve Bullock, the Montana DEQ and Tintina.
  3. Donate to
Montana Trout Unlimited to help continue the effort to protect the Smith.
  4. Contact Colin Cooney,, for your free Smith River koozies and stickers.

Devastating Trump Forest Legislation Moving in Congress


The link below and alert was copied from our friends at Cascadia Wildlands. They are warning us of another in a long line of threats to our wildlands and ecosystem. It never hurts to write letters protecting what we love. We urge all of you to do the same.


The link to their website and to this article can be found here.



Your voice is urgently needed to protect old-growth and clean water in the Pacific Northwest.


Hi Cascadia Wildlands Supporter,



The horrible forest legislation that we have been anticipating from Congress after the election of Trump has arrived. The "Resilient Federal Forests Act" (HR 2936) has already passed a full House vote. It now moves to the U.S. Senate. The bill guts federal environmental protections for our beloved backyard forests and paves the way for rampant clearcutting.


Take action today to help us stop this reckless Trump bill.

If enacted, HR 2936 would immediately remove critical protections provided by the Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, the Northwest Forest Plan, and the National Environmental Policy Act.  All existing forest plans that have sought to balance timber production and public values, including clean water, imperiled species habitat and recreation, will become advisory and unenforceable, and public opportunities to prevent illegal logging from moving forward are eliminated.


This is truly a horrible bill, certainly the worst since the notorious Salvage Rider of the 1990s, and it would have tremendous implications for forests, rivers, species and carbon stores in the Pacific Northwest. A tidal wave of public opposition is needed right now to prevent this bill from moving forward!

Please take a second to support our old-growth forests and urge your Senator to VOTE NO on HR 2936!


Please use the contact links on the home page to write your Senator.


Thank you for helping us keep it wild!


Picture above was provided by:


(Juvenile northern spotted owl
photo by James Johnston)

Threats to the Endangered Species Act


In addition to the current threats to the ESA as proposed in the Federal Register by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmoshperic Administration ( see first Action Alert above ) we have this effort by Congress. In conjunction with the article below, the Gallatin Wildlife Association is proud to be one of 425 co-signers on a letter to the political leaders in Washington D.C. We urge all of you to contact our Congressional Delegation as well as those listed to show maximum support for the ESA. The thank you letter from the Endangered Species Coalition as well as the link to the actual letter sent to Washington D.C. is below. The letter was addressed to those 8 members of House and Senate who you see listed.



From: Endangered Species Coalition
Sent: Friday, July 07, 2017 8:01 AM
To: Gallatin Wildlife Association

Subject: Thank you for supporting the Endangered Species Act


Thank you to all of you who have signed on to this letter in support of the Endangered Species Act. With your support, we surpassed our goal of 200 signers and wrapped up the letter with a total of 425 groups representing all 50 states!


The release and letter are here:


The full letter to Senate and House leadership can be read here.


Please share on social media and with your networks as possible.


Thank you,


Tara Thornton
Program Director
Endangered Species Coalition



The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader

United States Senate


The Honorable Charles E. Schumer

Minority Leader

United States Senate


The Honorable John Barrasso


Environment and Public Works Committee


The Honorable Tom Carper

Ranking Member

Environment and Public Works Committee


The Honorable Paul Ryan


United States House of Representatives


The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

United States House of Representatives


The Honorable Rob Bishop


House Committee on Natural Resources


The Honorable Raúl Grijalva

Ranking Member

House Committee on Natural Resources


In February of this year, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works had conducted a hearing on proposed legislation called the "Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act". This hearing was chaired by Senate Chairman, Senator John Barasso of Wyoming.  His position is that “the Endangered Species Act ‘isn’t working today’ and it needs to be modernized, hence the name of the legislation. Modernization of this legislation is a code word for repeal and replace. In a few weeks, Senator John Barasso of Wyoming will most likely propose legislation which could very well gain wide spread support by the current administration and from anti-wildlife and anti-environmental groups.


It is safe to say that the Endangered Species Act has been and is our nation’s most effective law for protecting wildlife and plants in danger of extinction.  The ESA is the bedrock law protecting wildlife. Weakening of the ESA could threaten the existence of over 1,600 plants and animals under current protection. The ESA has been successful at keeping 99 percent of species listed from going extinct since its enactment. And without the ESA, it is estimated that 227 species would now be extinct. The Endangered Species Act is intensely popular by the majority of Americans as it represents the heart of all of our American principles. The Act’s effectiveness is reliant on a foundation of peer-reviewed, best available science in its listing; in its consultation, recovery and delisting decisions. It is the reliance on the understanding science of ecosystems and on the science of understanding wildlife, wildlife behavior and habitat that has helped ensure successful prevention of extinction.


Senator Barrasso’s effort to rewrite the ESA must be stopped. We need to tell him to drop his support for his legislation and tell our Senators not to support the “Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act”. Whatever happened to the promise we made to our children and grandchildren that we would pass our wildlife treasures on to future generations?



Threats Still Exists to Our National Monuments:


As you know, there has been a massive outpouring of support by the general public to protect our National Monuments and the Antiquities Act. A threat by the way as a result of an effort by this administration and the current Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke. Fortunately the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument seems to be spared by any changes, the same cannot be said for the other 26 monuments on the chopping block. Yesterday, the 24th of August, Secretary said that he had recommended that they downsize several national monuments. Although he did not specifically elaborate which ones, the Washington Post has reported on at least three of these national monuments to be altered are Utah's Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou national monuments. The thing is; an attack on one is an attack on all public lands.


It didn't seem to matter that 2.7 Million people have commented through the formal and proper channel to protect our National Monuments. And 9 out of 10 people have commented in favor of the Bears Ears National Monument.


Photo provided by Nancy Schultz.


Even though the official comment period is over as of July 10th, it does not hurt to voice your opposition to this change in public lands. Even though the Trump administration did not heed the voices of the American public, Congress needs to listen to the these same voices. We need to tell our Senators and Representatives to keep hands off from eliminating or altering in any way the boundaries of exisitng national monuments and not to weaken the Antiquities Act. Trump will need Congressional approval to do this horrible act. We can't let that happen.


1. Senator Daines can be contacted at this link.


Steve Daines' local office is 406-587-3446.


2. Senator Tester is strongly in favor of protection, but it does not hurt to reinforce his opinion and thank him for supporting our National Monuments and the Antiquities Act. His email link is:


Jon Tester's local office is  406-586-4450 .



3. Greg Gianforte can be contacted at this link.


       Greg Gianforte's DC office is 202-225-3211.




The Latest on Grizzly Bear Delisting


We knew it would come, but since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delisted this iconic species, the grizzly bear, the state of Wyoming has recently decided to open up grizzly bear trophy hunting beginning this fall of 2018. Even though the grizzly has made a comeback in numbers from where it was at one time, the bear is still in danger, perhaps even more so today due to the diminishing food supply, the threat of hunting, and the lack of protection in wildlife corridors. These corridors are essential to maintain genetic diversity of bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with the bears of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. For the latest read this most recent link dated today, June 22, 2017.




Finally Some Good News about Grizzly Bears:


This is the latest dated Aug. 31, 2018 from Center for Biological Diversity email.


Huge news out of Montana: A federal judge has temporaritly halted plans allowing Yellowstone grizzlies to be hunted in Wyoming and Idaho.


This is an important victory for these bears -- and for people like you who raised your voice against these cruel trophy hunts, which were scheduled to start on Saturday.


We filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order on Thursday while our case is heard about restorying protections for these bears. The judge granted our order, keeping these bears safe while our case plays out.

We are grateful for everyone who has gotten us this far.

Here are the details from the dramatic ruling: The Center and allies were in federal court challenging the Trump administration's decision last summer to strip Endangered Species Act protection from Yellowstone's grizzlies. That decision paved the way for Wyoming and Idaho to plan trophy hunts for bears. More than 20 grizzlies that wandered out of Yellowstone National Park could've been killed, including a dozen or so females.


This ruling immediately halts the hunt while our court case continues.



 And More Good News: 


The lastest from Michael Garrity, Executive Director for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.


Date: August 23, 2017 12:26:41 PM MDT

Press Release
August 23, 2016

Contact: Mike Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, 406 459-5936

Federal District Court rules in favor of Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ effort to save Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bears from extinction

The Federal District Court in Missoula ruled in favor of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies yesterday in its lawsuit challenging the federal government’s refusal to provide enhanced protections for imperiled Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears in northwest Montana. The Court agreed with the Alliance and vacated the newly-issued “not warranted” status, reinstated the 2013 “warranted but precluded” status, and remanded the issue back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


After being reduced to only two percent of their historic range, grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, sparking efforts to recover the species, which have had positive outcomes in some areas.  However, in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem in northwest Montana, which is isolated from other grizzly bear populations, grizzlies continue to teeter on extinction primarily due to human-caused bear fatalities, habitat destruction, and motorized intrusion into core grizzly areas.  There are fewer than 50 bears in this area; mortality rates are high; and the population chronically fails all recovery goals.

Since the early 1990’s, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has admitted every year that this small grizzly population should be upgraded to ‘endangered’ status,” explained Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “But for almost a quarter of a century the agency has used administrative loopholes to avoid making that formal designation, which would require the agency to delineate federally-protected ‘critical habitat’ that is essential to the recovery of these grizzlies

In 2014, conservationists filed suit to challenge the agency’s 20-year delay listing this population as an endangered species, and in response, the agency abruptly changed course to issue a determination that the upgrade to “endangered” status is no longer warranted for this imperiled population.  “The agency’s cursory one-paragraph decision that the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear no longer qualifies as ‘endangered’ fails to cite a single scientific paper or other source of evidence to support its rationale,” Garrity said. “But in sharp contrast to its public statements, internal agency documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Alliance found that the agency had no intention to issue a ‘not warranted’ decision and, in fact, found the isolated and small population and excessive human-caused mortalities warranted uplisting to ‘endangered’ status.   Once we filed our first lawsuit, however, the agency issued the ‘not warranted’ determination as a strategy to render our first lawsuit as moot.”

After the first lawsuit was subsequently dismissed as moot due to the agency’s strategic and manipulative decision to issue a “not warranted” finding, Alliance filed a second lawsuit that argued that the “not warranted” finding itself was arbitrary and capricious.  Yesterday, the federal court agreed, finding that it was arbitrary for the agency to apply a new policy redefining “endangered” at the eleventh hour.  Because the agency’s decision relied on the new policy without sufficient explanation, its decision was arbitrary and unlawful and was vacated by the court.

“The facts present a stark picture,” Garrity explained. “Since 2007, the agency’s estimate for this population has dropped from 47 to 41 bears.  For the bears native to the Cabinet Mountains, the population estimate has dropped from 15 to 5 bears – with the other bears being transplants.  Added to that is the fact that the total mortality rate for the bears has tripled from 0.9 per year from 1982-1998 to 3.1 per year in the period 1999-2014.”

Garrity pointed to the agency’s monitoring report published in January 2015 which found:  “The two periods (1983-1998 and 1999-2013) correspond to a decline in long term population trends beginning in 1999.  Grizzly bear survival of all sex and age classes decreased from 1999-2013.” Garrity noted that “the population also consistently fails all agency targets for recovery.  Grizzly bears fared no better in 2015, with at least six reported mortalities, including a mortality of a female, radio-collared bear in the Cabinet Mountains.”

“"It has been 24 years since the Fish and Wildlife Service first decided that this this small grizzly population should be upgraded to ‘endangered’ status, including over 20 years under a federal recovery plan.  But the population of Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears is simply not recovering,” Garrity said.  “Instead, mortalities are increasing and we believe the population is actually dropping.  That’s why we had no choice but to file our recent lawsuit seeking to force the uplisting of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies to ‘endangered’ status, which would ultimately allow the bears to obtain the “critical habitat” designation that “endangered” status requires.

“Since the court just struck down this latest excuse to not list them as ‘endangered’ the Fish and Wildlife Service should do its job, list the Cabinet Yaak grizzlies as ‘endangered,’ and designate critical habitat so that the population will finally recovery," Garrity concluded.  “Until the agency takes those vitally necessary actions the Alliance for the Wild Rockies will continue to fight in both the courts and the public arena to recover the Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies.”

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