PINEDALE, Wyo. Jan. 21, 2020 — The Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club notified the Trump administration today of their intent to sue over plans allowing 72 grizzly bears to be killed to accommodate livestock grazing in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. The forest encompasses the headwaters of the Green River, an area important for Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear recovery as well as elk, deer and pronghorn migrations.
Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the killing of up to 72 grizzly bears over the 10-year life of the grazing program.
“Rather than requiring the livestock industry to do more to prevent conflicts with grizzlies, the feds are just authorizing more bears to be killed,” said Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wiping out Yellowstone grizzlies to make way for cattle to graze for cheap on public lands just doesn’t make any sense. These treasured bears deserve better.”
The Endangered Species Act requires that the Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service analyze the grazing program’s risk to grizzly bears. In its 2019 “biological opinion” providing this analysis, the Service concluded that “jeopardy” to the grizzly can be prevented if the Forest Service and the livestock grazing permittees implement certain conservation measures.
Today’s notice letter explains that these conservation measures are inadequate and unenforceable and therefore illegal. For example, Fish and Wildlife does not require ranchers to haul off livestock carcasses when cattle die from other causes. Instead they need only haul carcasses half a mile from the nearest road, where they are likely to be scavenged by grizzly bears and wolves.
“For decades, the Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly increased the number of grizzly bears that can be killed as a result of livestock grazing in the Upper Green. There are proven, effective methods to prevent conflicts between bears and livestock. Authorizing the killing of 72 grizzly bears over the next 10 years — which doubles the number of bears that have been killed over the past 20 years in the Upper Green — without requiring anything of livestock producers to actually prevent conflicts is unconscionable and ineffective,” said Bonnie Rice, senior representative with Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.
The agencies will have 60 days to respond to the notice of intent to sue, after which the conservation groups may file a lawsuit.