Despite being clouded in controversy, the decision to lift the federal protection of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a victory in sound wildlife conservation.
After living under the protective umbrella of the Endangered Species Act for over 40 years, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke called the recovery “one of America’s great conservation successes.”
“As a kid who grew up in Montana, I can tell you that this is a long time coming,” he said in a statement. “[It’s] very good news for many communities and advocates in the Yellowstone region.”
Today, there are estimated to be more than 700 bears in the Yellowstone region, far more than required for a request for removal. While the decision has seemingly been a long time coming and one that officials in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have been cautiously planning for, it is wrought with controversy.
Environmental groups have already pledged forthcoming lawsuits, calling the decision reckless and “without scientific reasoning.”
Controlled hunting seasons have been drafted awaiting the decision, but according to officials in all three states, it is far too early to discuss possible hunting seasons, let alone one planned for 2017. In order to plan any kind of hunting seasons, officials plan to thoroughly review the final delisting documents.
The remaining segments of grizzly bears residing in the lower 48 will not be affected by yesterday’s ruling and will still enjoy federal protection.