Big Sam. Photo by Tom Peek
BFC joined in solidarity with other grizzly bear advocates and attended the de-listing hearing at the Federal District Court in Missoula on Thursday, August 30. The court room was totally packed, so crowded that they opened an additional "overflow" court room, which was also packed. The rooms were thick with people who care about grizzly bears, including Doug Peacock, Louisa Wilcox, Dr. David Mattson, Jimmy St. Goddard, lots of BFC family, and many others. After four hours of careful, thoughtful questioning of both the plaintiffs (grizzly advocates) and defendants (government), Judge Christensen called a recess and the hearing was over with no decision made, but, the feeling we came away with bordered the positive.
Some of the key points being brought up by grizzly bear advocates seeking to gain grizzly bears back their Endangered Species status include:
- The current Yellowstone population has flatlined and is starting to decline
- Yellowstone grizzly bears are an isolated population, and if hunting commences in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, it would be extremely difficult for grizzly bears to establish themselves in areas outside the Greater Yellowstone Area.
- Climate change is drastically changing the way grizzly bears eat because of declining food sources, such as white bark pine nuts, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and army cutworm moths.
- While grizzlies have always eaten buffalo and elk, with other high-fat and high-protein food sources dwindling, they are turning more to meat, which is placing bears in conflict with both hunters and ranchers. This is also another key reason to stop the Yellowstone buffalo slaughter, as more buffalo on a larger landscape will benefit both of these iconic, sacred species.
- While grizzly bears have been protected under the Endangered Species Act for over forty decades, they have yet to recover, and in fact had been declining, even with federal protections. Removing these protections prematurely, and initiating “trophy hunts” will cause irreparable harm to these vulnerable bears.
An issue that was not discussed, but which is equally as important, is the lack of consultation the federal government had with Tribes who hold the grizzly bear sacred.
The timing of the judges decision was critical, because the following Saturday, Wyoming’s grizzly bear trophy killing spree was set to begin. In preparation to defend bears before a ruling, the grizzly bear legal team filed an emergency injunction to halt Wyoming’s “hunt”. The judge granted a temporary halt to the hunt for two weeks while he took the time to review the case. For now, grizzly bears in Wyoming are safe from trophy hunters.
We don’t know yet what the outcome will be, but we should be hearing from Judge Christensen within the next week.