During the last week of July, the federal government formally completed the paperwork that returns grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to the endangered species list following U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen’s ruling last September. With this move, the bears once again join the five remaining Lower 48 grizzly populations as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and have been placed back under federal jurisdiction.
While paperwork was only just completed, Christiansen’s ruling immediately handed management decisions from the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who oversees grizzly bear recovery efforts throughout the Lower 48.
In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Yellowstone population, citing a rebound from about 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 and saying the population had met delisting criteria. Several environmental and tribal groups filed lawsuits over the delisting, ultimately winning with Christiansen’s 2018 rule.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently seeking an appeal of the Missoula judge’s decision. Meanwhile, earlier this year, Montana and Wyoming lawmakers passed joint resolutions asking the U.S. Congress to introduce legislation that would delist grizzly bears.