ESA Protections Over Yellowstone Grizzly Bears

By: Anabelle Keimach (Correspondent)

On September 24, Montana District Court judge Dana Christiansen ordered that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections over the Yellowstone grizzly bears be restored, protecting the lives of hundreds of bears from hunters.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, which is an agency of the federal government, incorrectly removed the Yellowstone grizzly bear’s status as an endangered species. This agency failed to acknowledge that lifting protections over the bears would be a huge threat to the bears living in this area as well as other grizzly bear populations. At the time protections were restored, the states of Wyoming and Idaho were planning to allow licensed hunts of the grizzly bears, which have now been canceled.

Junior and environmental science student, Olivia Carson says she completely agrees with the court’s decision to restore protections over the grizzly bears. “They’re a very vulnerable population and they need to be protected,” said Carson.

Carson also says that grizzly bears should not be seen as a threat, and their occasional dangerous tendencies should not justify the hunting of the bears. “Grizzly attacks are pretty rare, and the danger to the bear population is more pressing than the danger to the human and livestock population,” said Carson.

Environmental science teacher, Ms. Emily Burke says that populations of species change every year, so it would make sense if a bag limit for hunting a certain species is allowed, as long as their population is in a stable condition. “But if the grizzlies are still designated as such a low population that they’re a threatened or endangered species then there should be absolutely no hunting or killing allowed of them,” said Burke.   

Burke says that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service usually sets the hunting and fishing limits of a species, and along with the EPA designates protected species, so some could feel conflicted about the district court interfering with their decision of delisting the bears. “I’d hope that they could fix their mistake, but I worry about setting a precedent where the federal government steps in and overrules U.S fish and Wildlife or the EPA,” said Burke.

Burke added that this becomes a political issue in the Yellowstone area depending on where people stand on the idea of the district court taking over decisions usually made by the Fish and Wildlife service and EPA. “I think elsewhere perhaps it’s not as political of an issue, but it’s a very local political issue where the grizzlies are because it’s affecting people’s lives there more than our lives here on the east coast,” said Burke.

The Trump administration has proposed changes to the way the Endangered Species Act is implemented, including a proposal that suggests that threatened species should no longer receive the same protections as those who are endangered. “The second proposal would allow the economic consequences of a species’ protection to be taken into consideration during a listing,” said NPR reporter, Nathan Rott. The Trump Administration wants the available science, but also the cost of protecting a species to be considered before it is put on the endangered species list.  

Some Sharon High Schools students disagree with the proposals to change how the Endangered Species Act is implemented, and are concerned about the impact that it will have on threatened and endangered species.

“I believe that if people do have economic interests in mind it would be smarter to focus on preserving endangered species as that will help more in the long term as well as help maintain our planet,” said junior, Tiger Young.

Junior Kaelie Piscitello says that these changes could lower efforts and awareness to protect certain species at risk. “If there’s things that other people can do they might want to know and they might have a better if the idea if the federal government is telling them, ‘you should be helping’… if they get removed from the list, it just won’t bring as much awareness….,” said Piscitello.

Junior Ben Nathan says that it is still worth having threatened species under care because removing protections of threatened species puts them at even higher risk of becoming endangered. “ In my opinion they should still care for threatened and endangered species similarly,” said Nathan. He added that delisting an endangered species that may not have fully recovered could result in it becoming endangered again.    

The safety of the Yellowstone grizzly’s may be a victory for conservationists now, but other threatened or endangered species may not have the same privileges in the future.

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