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Yellowstone Grizzly Officially Off Endangered Species List

The Yellowstone grizzly is off the federal endangered species list; the Northern Cheyenne and other groups will block move in court.
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The Yellowstone grizzly bear is officially off the federal endangered species list as of July 31, with management reverting to state and local authorities. The Northern Cheyenne are preparing to sue, having filed a 60-day notice of impending legal action on June 30.

The Northern Cheyenne joined with several environmental groups to announce they would file suit in the wake of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s handover of the management of about 700 bears ranging over 19,000 square miles Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to state wildlife officials, the Associated Press reported. The fear, they say, is that the bears’ numbers could drop again if a hunting season were initiated. Moreover, the spiritual icons should not be considered as recovered unless and until they inhabit all of their traditional territory, the Northern Cheyenne said.

“It is absurd to describe the grizzly bear as recovered when it is absent from 98 percent of its historic range,” said Conrad Fisher, Vice-President of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, in a statement. “Grizzly bears used to roam freely on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, but nobody has seen a grizzly on the Reservation for several generations.”

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None of the three states involved have instituted hunting seasons for this year, according to AP, and the delisting does not include 1,000 bears farther north in regions encompassing Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. In addition, federal officials plan to monitor the bear population and put them back on the list if the number drops below 500, AP said.

"There are a lot of safeguards in the conservation strategy to ensure the grizzly population will remain," Kevin Frey, a wildlife management specialist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told AP.

Part of the reason for delisting is “reducing conflicts with people is the key to grizzly conservation,” according to the National Park Service.

But the Northern Cheyenne and other Native groups are having none of it.

“The Northern Cheyenne people view the grizzly bear as a spiritual relative,” said Fisher in the Northern Cheyenne statement. “The Tribe has a sacred responsibility for speaking for the grizzly bear, which cannot speak for itself.”