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Group Wants Endangered Grizzlies Returned to AZ, Other Western States

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Monday, July 8, 2019   

TUCSON, Ariz. – An Arizona-based conservation group is suing the Trump administration to force it to update the federal recovery plan for grizzly bears.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, grizzlies currently range in and around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks in the Northern Rockies.

But the center’s scientists maintain an updated recovery plan should consider reintroducing the bears into previous habitats, such as the Sierra Nevada, the southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon region in Arizona.

Collette Adkins, the center’s carnivore conservation director, says the group’s lawsuit doesn't demand an immediate reintroduction of grizzlies, but for the Trump administration to complete a study ordered in a 2011 status review.

"The main goal of our lawsuit is to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to at least analyze these additional areas and determine whether reintroduction is feasible or not," she states.

Grizzly bears used to range across western North America, and as many as 50,000 could be found from northern Mexico to Alaska.

But Adkins says starting about 200 years ago, they were hunted mercilessly, and there are only about 2,000 left in the U.S.

In 2017, the federal government tried to strip the bears of protections but were stopped by the courts.

Adkins says the recovery plan for grizzly bears is more than 25 years old, doesn't reflect current science and calls it "unambitious."

She says reintroducing bears to parts of their former range is a crucial step toward recovering them under the Endangered Species Act, and potentially could triple the grizzly population in the lower 48 states.

"It's a big project,” she stresses. “Reintroducing a species isn't something where we just filed this lawsuit.

“What we want is the analysis. We want them to pull together the team of people to take a look at it because they said they would and it's the only way to really recover the species."

Adkins says before President Donald Trump took office, the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged the need for a new recovery plan, concluding that the 1993 plan no longer reflected best available science and needed to be updated.

The center's lawsuit asks the court to set a deadline for the agency to complete that study.


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