9th Circuit Upholds Endangered Species Protections for Yellowstone Grizzlies


Court of appeals sends U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back to the drawing board


Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084


Andrea Zaccardi, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 854-7748


Bonnie Rice, Sierra Club, (406) 640-2857

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the Montana District Court’s opinion that reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for the Yellowstone region’s grizzly bear population. The decision spares the grizzlies from plans for trophy hunts in the states of Wyoming and Idaho.

Earthjustice, representing the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association, argued for restoring protections to Yellowstone grizzly bears.

“This is a tremendous victory for those who care about Yellowstone and its grizzly bears,” said Tim Preso, Earthjustice attorney. “The court rightfully rejected the misguided proposal to subject Yellowstone grizzlies to trophy hunting for the first time in 40 years. The grizzly is an icon of our remaining wildness at a time when our wilderness is shrinking and our wildlife is under assault.”

“The Northern Cheyenne Tribe applauds the victory for the Grizzly Bear in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and we stand by our eternal commitment to protect the Earth and the Grizzly from extinction,” said William Walks Along, Tribal Administrator for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. “We remain unified with our allies who have sustained their efforts to advocate for Yellowstone Grizzly Bears’ and their right to live and flourish in their home ranges.”

“This is a tremendous victory for all who cherish Yellowstone’s grizzly bears and for those who’ve worked to ensure they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Grizzlies still have a long way to go before recovery. Hunting these beautiful animals around America’s most treasured national park should never again be an option.”

“We are thrilled with the court’s decision to uphold still-needed Endangered Species protections for Yellowstone’s beloved grizzly bears,” said Bonnie Rice, senior representative with Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “Given the rapid pace of the extinction and climate crises, now is not the time to remove critical safeguards that will ensure Yellowstone’s irreplaceable grizzlies stay on the road to recovery.”

“The importance of this court ruling for the grizzly bears found in our most iconic national parks cannot be overstated,” said Stephanie Adams, Northern Rockies Associate Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “This decision sets the stage for practical, science-based and on-the-ground collaboration to ensure a healthy future for grizzlies in Grand Teton, Yellowstone and beyond. And now, communities can continue their work to create opportunities to safely connect the grizzly bears of Yellowstone and Glacier.”

Read the legal document.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling: Yellowstone Grizzly Bear (PDF)
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling: Yellowstone Grizzly Bear (Text)


In August 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone-region grizzly bear population from the federal endangered and threatened species list, even though the area’s grizzly population has suffered high levels of human-caused deaths in recent years.

That fall, for the first time in more than 40 years, the states of Wyoming and Idaho announced grizzly hunts that would have allowed for up to 23 bears to be killed outside of Yellowstone National Park.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe and conservation groups challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s disregard of bear deaths following the bears’ recent shift to a more heavily meat-based diet following the loss of other foods. They filed a lawsuit and temporary restraining order to block the hunt, which a district judge granted. Later, the judge ruled on behalf of the Tribe and conservation groups, reinstating federal protections.

Today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this decision.

Learn more about the legal fight.

Silver-tipped Grizzly 399, a Yellowstone grizzly bear, surveys a meadow, looking for potential dangers for her three young cubs.
Silver-tipped Grizzly 399, a Yellowstone grizzly bear, surveys a meadow, looking for potential dangers for her three young cubs. (Thomas D. Mangelsen)

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.