Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed a motion today on behalf of 19 conservation groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force the agency to comply with a 1995 federal court order to address serious deficiencies in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. Judge Paul Friedman directed the agency to adopt an accurate method of measuring grizzly populations, and to address other serious weaknesses in the recovery plan. The Fish and Wildlife Service has done nothing to respond to the judge’s order.
“Under the court’s order, the Fish and Wildlife Service was required to address the recovery plan’s deficiencies more than two years ago,” said Jim Angell, attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. “This agency’s failure to meet the court deadline is a testament to the agency’s arrogance and refusal to face up to the many problems that plague the Recovery Plan.”
“We are particularly concerned with the agency’s continued reliance on methods of measuring grizzly populations that are simply not accurate, and its dependence on dwindling bears on the Canadian side of the border as a means to bolster recovery in the U.S.,” said Louisa Willcox of the Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Project.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service must answer basic questions regarding how many bears we have and how much habitat is needed for recovery before forging ahead to delist them,” said Caroline Byrd of Wyoming Outdoor Council. “Key grizzly bear habitat in Wyoming is on the block for oil and gas development. We may lose these crucial areas while the government drags its feet and resists addressing the deficiencies in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.”
This motion follows on the heels of numerous statements by Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator that the grizzly will be soon delisted or removed from protections under the Endangered Species Act. “It is sadly ironic that delisting is moving forward even though the agency’s population measures are not reliable enough to determine the bear’s status,” said Tim Stevens of Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
This motion also follows a recent incident in which two Sierra Club employees were thrown out of a meeting where state and federal wildlife managers were formulating a plan for delisting the Yellowstone grizzly. Because of Montana’s open meetings policies, state employees also left the meeting.
“It is a poor state of affairs when the federal government sacrifices both good science and democratic principles in the pursuit of a base political agenda,” said Louisa Willcox. “Premature delisting of grizzly bears is a move to kick grizzlies out of the lifeboat, the Noah’s Ark represented by Endangered Species Act protections.”