The US Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed delisting of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears from protections under the Endangered Species Act. Once the bears are delisted the authority to manage them passes to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho who all intend to authorize trophy hunts of the bears. 

One of the paramount responsibilities of the USFWS is to implement the Endangered Species Act. The ESA’s goal is to prevent extinction of species and to recover endangered or threatened species. 

And while it appears that the USFWS has achieved the first goal by preventing extinction, it is premature to conclude that the GYE population of grizzly bears is recovered “to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this [Endangered Species] Act are no longer necessary.”

While the USFWS claims that grizzlies are recovered many non-government scientists disagree, citing concerns over issues such as:

  • Connectivity, genetic diversity and long-term viability
  • Climate change
  • Food resources
  • Habitat fragmentation and human encroachment
  • Demographic monitoring and population estimates
  • Conflict management
  • Post-delisting oversight
  • State management that allows trophy hunting of grizzlies
  • Impact of legal challenges to the USFWS declaration of a Distinct Population Segment
  • Political meddling in the delisting process
  • An inadequate Peer review process
  • Delisting itself constitutes a threat

As you can see, there is no shortage of issues to debate.

USFWS also has a responsibility to ensure that robust oversight of delisted grizzlies is in place at delisting and is functioning in a manner that sustains the population. Many believe the USFWS has failed in this responsibility.

During the first public comment period, which ended May 10, 2016, many commenters noted that:

  • there are no "hard triggers" that require a status review if targets in the plan are not met.
  • there are no guarantees that the states will adequately fund the necessary monitoring of the population.
  • The states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have a culture and history of hostility towards predators.

Non-governmental scientists and the public have weighed in, too

A recent study has shown that a significant proportion of wildlife management professionals with grizzly bear experience believe grizzlies should be uplisted to endangered status rather than delisted. (See study here)

Another study has shown that scientists within the USFWS believe that their agency pays too much attention to political and commercial considerations and too little to science. (see study here)

American voters as a whole are opposed to delisting and trophy hunting of grizzlies, and even hunters are opposed.

According to a recent survey of voters conducted in April 2016 (see charts here and survey here)

  • A majority of voters oppose delisting of grizzlies: 55% oppose, 26% support, 19% are undecided.
  • A plurality of voters who self-identified as hunters oppose delisting: 50% oppose, 33% support, 17% are undecided.
  • A majority of voters oppose trophy hunting of grizzlies:  68% oppose, 20% support, 12% are undecided.
  • A majority of voters who identified as hunters oppose trophy hunting of grizzlies: 53% oppose, 35% support, 11% are undecided.



Concerned Scientists Opposed to Delisting:

  • Jane Goodall - Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
  • Professor Edward O. Wilson - Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology
  • George B. Schaller - Panthera Corporation and Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Michael Soule - Professor Emeritus, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz

Former Government Agency People Opposed to Delisting

  • Jamie Rappaport Clark - Former US Fish & Wildlife Service Director
  • Mike Finley - Former Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park
  • Dr. Jesse Logan - forest ecologist, Forest Service research
  • Dr. David Mattson - biologist, USGS research
  • Sam Jojola - FWS law enforcement  

Citizens of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Opposed to Delisting

  • Ted Turner - Businessman, Philanthropist and conservationist
  • Yvon Chouinard - Founder of Patagonia, Inc. and mountain climbing pioneer
  • Terry Tempest Williams - Author and Guggenheim Fellow
  • Harrison Ford - Actor and Conservationist
  • Jeff Bridges - Academy Award-winning actor
  • Michael Keaton - Academy Award-winning actor
  • Douglas Brinkley - Author and professor of history
  • N. Scott Momaday - Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Carl Hiaasen - Journalist, author
  • Doug Peacock - Author, Guggenheim Fellow
  • Tom McGuane - Author, American Academy of Arts & Letters