MISSOULA – Opponents of removing federal protections for Yellowstone grizzlies are issuing one final appeal in advance of a key court hearing in Missoula this week.
U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen will hear arguments Thursday in a combined lawsuit questioning whether the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service should be allowed to go through with plans to “de-list” the grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is turning over grizzly management to the states, with Wyoming and Idaho planning limited hunts for the big bears as soon as Sept. 1.
But opponents – including wildlife, conservation and tribal groups – say the decision threatens the bears’ recovery.
During a Tuesday press conference in Missoula, speakers like wildlife researcher Dr. David Mattson argue the USFWS recovery plan is flawed and based on out-of-date research which doesn’t consider climate change.
“This decision to de-list prematurely was made on math, not science. Not Dr. Mattson’s science. Not the science of climate change,” Montana author Rick Bass said.
“It’s kind of crazy. And I think what’s really behind this is the dollars. The people want to make money on something, to kill the grizzly, endangering everybody,” said Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Cultural Advisor Johnny Arlee. “It’s our fault that they’re down below, into our places. We’re moving up higher into the mountains.”
“It’s an ego-driven thing for domination over a species that deserves much better,” said Missoula hunter Doug Lefler.
Others, including a Jackson Hole-based group Shoot ‘Em with a Camera, have had members purchasing the Wyoming grizzly hunt tags to save bears.
Opponents of the Yellowstone grizzly de-listing are hoping the judge may rule from the bench, or soon enough to stop the upcoming hunts.