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Grizzly Advocates Push Back on Upper Green River Kills

Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the killing of up to 72 grizzly bears over the 10-year life of a livestock grazing program on public lands in Wyoming. (Janko Ferlic/Pexels)
Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the killing of up to 72 grizzly bears over the 10-year life of a livestock grazing program on public lands in Wyoming. (Janko Ferlic/Pexels)
January 28, 2020

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Wildlife advocates are pushing back on plans to allow 72 grizzly bears to be killed to accommodate livestock grazing in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said while grizzly populations have increased since they were listed as endangered in 1975, they're not out of the woods yet. Instead of making industry do more to prevent conflicts, she said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service simply approved killing more bears.

"One of the main causes of death for grizzly bears is caused by humans," Santarsiere said. "And here, permitting the additional deaths of 72 grizzly bears to protect cattle for the livestock industry just doesn't make sense."

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have announced plans to file a lawsuit to block last year's authorization for bear elimination over a 10-year Bridger-Teton grazing program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's biological opinion determined proposed conservation measures, to be carried out by ranchers, would not jeopardize grizzly bears, currently listed as a threatened species.

Santarsiere argued the Endangered Species Act and case law have made it clear that the federal agency cannot rely on third parties to protect bears on the ground, especially when conservation measures are voluntary or at the discretion of ranchers.

"Here we're relying on ranchers, essentially - that have pushed back throughout this entire process to do anything to protect grizzly bears - to implement the conservation measures that the Fish and Wildlife Service is relying upon," she said.

Santarsiere pointed to requirements that ranchers move carcasses of livestock that die from other causes half a mile from the nearest road, instead of removing them completely. She said that may reduce human conflict, but conflict with cattle would increase, because bears will move in to scavenge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service have 60 days to respond to the notice of intent to sue.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY