The 600 or so grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park are back under US Endangered Species Act protection thanks to yesterday’s judicial decision in a suit filed by conservation groups. US District Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the US Fish & Wildlife Service improperly removed grizzlies from the Endangered Species list in 2007, and ordered that grizzlies be returned to Threatened Species status.
Yellowstone Grizzlies Regain Federal “Threatened” Status
In his written decision, Judge Molloy said that global climate change played a role in the restoration of federal protection to the bears, which in recent decades have recovered from near-extinction in the Lower 48 United States specifically because of their official status as a Threatened species. Molloy said that in declaring the species sufficiently recovered to warrant delisting, USFWS failed to take into account the effects of global climate change on the grizzly’s Yellowstone-area food supply.
For instance, in the fall, grizzlies feed heavily on the seeds of the whitebark pine tree. But the numbers of whitebark pines have plummeted in recent years because warmer temperatures brought on by global warming have allowed insect pests to attack them, and also because wildfires caused by drier-than-normal summer conditions have destroyed significant stands of the trees.
The successful lawsuit on behalf of the grizzlies was filed by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
If you’d like, have a look at the full list of US animals and plants that are protected under the ESA.