For Immediate Release, June 27, 2019
Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawsuit Filed to Force Trump Administration to Expand, Update Plan for Grizzly Bear Recovery
MISSOULA, Mont.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s failure to update the federal recovery plan for grizzly bears. An updated plan should reflect current science and consider additional areas where grizzlies once lived and can now be reintroduced.
Scientists have identified numerous such areas, including California’s Sierra Nevada, the southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas in Arizona.
“The recovery plan for grizzly bears is more than 25 years old, doesn’t reflect current science and is unambitious,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center. “Grizzlies now live in just a small fraction of the lands they once roamed, but there’s great habitat in the West where these magnificent animals could once again survive.”
Instead of recovering grizzly bears in more areas of their historic range, the Trump administration has attempted to halt grizzly bear recovery. Under its leadership the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a 2017 decision to strip federal protection from Yellowstone grizzlies, but that wrongheaded decision was overturned by a judge in September 2018.
Before the Trump presidency the Fish and Wildlife Service actually acknowledged the need for a new recovery plan. In a 2011 grizzly bear status review, the agency concluded that the 1993 plan no longer reflected best available science and needed to be updated to consider additional recovery areas.
Today’s lawsuit asks the court for an order providing deadlines for the Service to update the plan and evaluate the need to pursue grizzly bear recovery in additional areas where suitable habitat exists.
The suit also seeks an updated status review for grizzly bears, which the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to prepare every five years. The Service has not done an evaluation of the bears’ status since 2011.
“We’re hoping this lawsuit will push the agency to finally follow the law and do more for grizzly bears,” said Adkins. “The bears have made progress in and around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, but we need a plan for their recovery in more places.”
Today’s filing follows a 2014 petition by the Center that identified 110,000 square miles of potential grizzly habitat in the lower 48 states. Returning bears to some of these areas is a crucial step toward recovering them under the Endangered Species Act and could potentially triple the grizzly bear population in the lower 48, from fewer than 2,000 today to as many as 6,000 in the future.
Likely more than 50,000 grizzly bears once ranged throughout most of western North America, from the high Arctic to the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico and from the coast of California across most of the Great Plains. Within 200 years of European settlement, wanton slaughter had reduced populations to perhaps several hundred bears, mostly found in Yellowstone National Park.
Outside the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide populations, very little progress has been made in recovering grizzlies. Remnant populations survive in less than five percent of the bears’ historic range, while large swaths of unoccupied, potentially suitable habitat have been identified by researchers.
Today fewer than 2,000 grizzly bears remain in the lower 48 states. There are about 700 bears in the isolated Greater Yellowstone ecosystem; 1,000 in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem; 75 to 80 in the Selkirk ecosystem of Washington and Idaho; 55 to 60 in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem of Montana and Idaho; and likely no bears in Washington’s North Cascades.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.