Federal Court Ruling Saves Up To 72 Wyoming Grizzlies From Death

As many as 72 bears in the Upper Green River region near Pinedale are safe — for now. A federal court ruled Thursday that U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service violated federal law when it authorized killing the bears to protect grazing leases.

Mark Heinz

May 25, 20232 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Grizzlies in the Upper Green River region of Wyoming are safe, for now, after a federal court issued a ruling Thursday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was out of line when it authorized killing up to 72 bears there.

Apparently no grizzly bears have died in the area, despite the USFWS authorizing killing grizzlies to help protect livestock grazing leases in remote areas of the Upper Green River region in the Gros Ventre and Wind River mountain ranges.

The culling was authorized in 2019 for a 10-year period, during which up to 72 grizzlies could have been killed. No reports issued about the case mention that any grizzlies have actually been killed under the authorization.

The Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project and several other environmental groups petitioned to have the killing program halted. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor Thursday, stating that both the USFWS and Forest Service had been negligent in the matter.

‘No Excuse’ For Killing Grizzies

The ruling is significant because it will help protect grizzlies in an area where they are still struggling to recover, Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar of Laramie told Cowboy State Daily.

“Frankly, there’s no excuse for killing grizzly bears for livestock losses,” he said. “There’s no evidence that it helps prevent further livestock depredation.”

The court ruled that the USFWS and Forest Service had both ignored their own biological experts in the matter, he said. The Forest Service also failed to consider the protection of migratory bird habitat when issuing livestock grazing permits there.

The USFWS also apparently failed put any limit on the number of female grizzlies that could have been killed, he said. In previous authorized killing programs, the number of females allowed to be killed was limited to 9% or fewer.

The failure to specify that limit on the number of females that could have been killed severely weakened the USFWS’s case, Molvar said. And the Forest Service was dinged for not taking the bird habitat into consideration.

Mark Heinz can be reached at Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter