Hunting Guide’s Killing Raises Stakes in Grizzly Case

The judge’s ruling strips state authorities of their ability to manage the population. In reality, the Endangered Species Act provides that, once a species has recovered, as has the grizzly bear near Yellowstone National Park, it must be returned to state management. The judges decision keeps power firmly in the hands of the federal government. And lack of local management almost certainly increases the odds of grizzly encounters with humans.

“This ruling will allow the grizzly population to continue to grow unfettered under federal management, endangering the lives and livelihoods of westerners who settled the region long ago,” said Cody Wisniewski of Mountain States Legal Foundation, lead attorney on the case. “It’s easy for well-financed environmentalists from out-of-state to make bold proclamations about what ought to be done to manage the grizzly bear. They don’t have to live with the grizzly in their backyards.”

Tragically, just prior to the judge’s final decision in the case, a Wyoming hunting guide working in the Teton Wilderness lost his life in a horrifying grizzly attack.

The story was every outdoorsman’s nightmare. 37-year-old Wyoming hunting guide Mark Uptain was tracking an elk when he and his client were attacked by a pair of bears. Despite having a pistol on hand, they were unable to defend themselves. Uptain lost his life in the tragic attack.

Ranchers in western Wyoming know these dangers all too well. They have faced mounting losses to their sheep and cattle in recent years and have faced more frequent attacks on humans, as the grizzly population has continued to swell in number and expand its territory.

Area residents concerned about this growing threat had hoped for a better result in court. They understand that de-listing the grizzly from the en- dangered species list would allow state wildlife officials to manage the bear population and reduce grizzly attacks.

Wyoming resident Mary A. Thoman of W&M Thoman Ranches, LLC, whose family has raised sheep in western Wyoming for nearly seven decades, had to give up her family grazing land after her losses became too great. “I am afraid that the Western way of life will be lost for future generations,”
she wrote in an op-ed published inUSA Today.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone area grizzly from the endangered species list in 2017, after research showed that population numbers in the region had climbed to at least 700, from a low of 136 recorded in 1975.

“This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke about the 2017 delisting.

“Congress intended that, when a species was recovered, it would be removed from federal listing and management would be turned back over to State jurisdiction,” said William Perry Pendley of Mountain States Legal Foundation. “Not only does this ruling frustrate the will of Congress; it also exposes westerners who defend themselves against attacking grizzlies to years of federal prosecution, fines, and possible imprisonment.”

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Wyoming Ranchers and Farmers Now Endangered, Not the Grizzlies

Keeping a family farm, sheep or cattle ranch profitable is a difficult enough without special interest groups making it harder. The grizzly bear was once an endangered species, but in 2017 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly population exceeded scientists’ minimum goals for the powerful predator. It had fully recovered. The agency tried to remove the animal from the endangered list, but was sued in Crow Indian Tribe v. United States of America. More recently, environmental groups also got involved trying to prevent delisting of the grizzly.

The Grizzly Wars

MSLF attorney Cody Wisniewski is quoted today in the Capital Press on the escalating battle between extreme environmental activists and Fish & Wildlife administrators. An environmental group has filed notice it will sue the Trump administration if it does not draft a comprehensive grizzly bear recovery plan encompassing much of the West… “It really is…

Listen: MSLF talks grizzly bears with Wake Up Wyoming

Environmentalists’ efforts to keep grizzly bears protected by the Endangered Species Act puts Wyoming ranchers in harm’s way. MSLF attorney Cody Wisniewski discussed the problem and the case with Glenn Woods on Wake Up Wyoming.

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