Yellowstone grizzly bears will no longer be listed under the Endangered Species Act after more than 40 years of protection, the federal government announced on Thursday, June 22.
The United States Department of Interior cited a significant rebound in the population of Yellowstone grizzly bears as the reason for the lifting of protection, but scientists from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) say there is an ulterior motive.
Grizzly Bear Protection
When Europeans resettled in the West, grizzly bears were trapped, shot, and poisoned to near extinction. From 50,000, their population quickly dwindled.
Ever since federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears were put in place in 1975, however, the animal's population increased from 136 to 700, the National Park Service said.
In addition, the grizzly bear ecosystem, which typically covers Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, has expanded by 50 percent. Overall, these animals still occupy 4 percent of their historic range.
Ryan Zinke, secretary of the interior department, said long-term efforts to protect the grizzly bear has allowed its population to grow. He said it is the "culmination of decades of hard work" on the part of tribal, federal, state, and private partners.
"This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes," said Zinke.
The Future Of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears
The federal decision to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list will be published in the next few days and will take effect exactly 30 days after publication. Hunting down grizzly bears inside Yellowstone is still banned, but limited hunting will be allowed in three states outside the boundaries.
Advocates have spoken out against the federal government's decision, expressing worry over the future of the grizzly bears.
"Grizzly bears are the slowest reproducing mammal on the planet, and a population decline can take decades to reverse," said Derek Goldman, a spokesperson from the Endangered Species Coalition.
Goldman said the federal government should develop comprehensive management plans first before finalizing the delisting.
Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity says the population of grizzly bears at Yellowstone are still falling due to invasive species and climate change that put the animals' food sources at risk.
Furthermore, the center says the ongoing threats that Yellowstone grizzly bears face will be exacerbated by trophy hunting.
"It's tragic that the Trump administration is stripping protections from these magnificent animals just to appease a tiny group of trophy hunters who want to stick grizzly bear heads on their walls," said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the center.
Santarsiere added that while conservation of these animals has made significant steps, restoring their population to full health still has a long way to go.