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The first public grizzly bear hunts in the Northern Rockies in almost three decades have been blocked by a U.S. judge who rejected government claims that the fearsome predators had recovered from near-extermination.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered federal protections restored on Monday for more than 700 bruins in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Wyoming - Idaho - Cusp - Hunters - Bears
Wyoming and Idaho were on the cusp of allowing hunters to kill up to 23 bears this fall—the first planned hunts in the U.S. outside Alaska since 1991.
The ruling was condemned by state officials who spent months planning the hunts, but there was no immediate word on whether an appeal seeking to overturn the ruling would be filed.
Christensen - Ruling - Case - Ethics - Hunting
Christensen wrote in his ruling that the case was "not about the ethics of hunting." Rather, he said, it was about whether federal officials adequately considered threats to the species' long-term recovery when they lifted protections last year.
In the judge's view, the answer was no.
Bears - US - Status - Grizzlies - Yellowstone
He noted that an estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous U.S. and said it would be "simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst" not to consider the status of grizzlies outside the Yellowstone region, one of the few areas where they have bounced back.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said the ruling provided further evidence of flaws in the Endangered Species Act and the need for Congress to make changes.
Grizzly - Recovery - Conservation - Success - Story
"Grizzly bear recovery should be viewed as a conservation success story," Mead said in a statement.
A bid to remove protections for the region's gray wolves ran into similar legal problems last decade. In that case, Congress intervened in 2011 to strip safeguards from the animals in Montana and Idaho through legislation, opening the way to public wolf hunts.
Pressure - Protections - Bears - Hunting - Years
Pressure to lift protections on bears and allow hunting has increased in recent years as the number of conflicts between bears...
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