Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Conservationists touted a major victory Tuesday in their battle to protect Yellowstone grizzly bears when a federal appeals court ruled that wildlife managers erred when they removed Endangered Species Act protection from "one of the American West's most iconic wild animals."
The ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2007 decision to remove the bears from the endangered species list. The court cited climate change as having accelerated a beetle infestation that destroys the bears' vital white-bark pine food source, making the grizzly only the second wildlife species, after the polar bear, to earn protection in recognition of harm caused by global warming.
The three-judge panel took note of conservationists' warnings that the loss of trees in the upper elevations in and around Yellowstone National Park would probably drive the grizzlies to forage in more populous areas, increasing confrontations between the omnivorous bears and the people and livestock in the lowlands.
Grizzlies have killed several tourists and hikers in recent years, forcing parks and wildlife officials to euthanize the bears in record numbers. About 75 grizzlies were killed or removed from the wild in 2010, according to a multi-agency study team.