By Lew Freedman
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CODY — After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed its intent to appeal the decision to the return of the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear to Endangered Species Act protection, Cody’s Loren Grosskopf predicted that side, which includes the state of Wyoming, will prevail.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, two years from now we’ll win,” Grosskopf said.
Grosskopf, a retiring Park County Commissioner who put years into helping craft the language and policies that contributed to the delisting of the animal from the EPA in the summer of 2017, also said, “It’s going to go on forever.”
In 2017 federal action returned supervision of the area grizzly to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
From a population low of 136 in the early 1970s to a recent evaluation the number of grizzlies had rebounded to about 700, many officials declared the bears’ recovery a great conservation success. Conservation groups disputed many points of reports and future handling of the animal and Native American tribes declared the bear to be a sacred animal in their religions. Many groups combined to sue and in particular halt a planned Wyoming Game and Fish limited bear hunt that was scheduled to begin in December.
Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula, ruled Fish and Wildlife had not followed proper procedures in the delisting process.
Parties had until Dec. 24 to notify the courts of intent to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Wyoming did so, followed by Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, but the crux of the matter lay in the hands of Fish and Wildlife.
“I think the feds should appeal,” Grosskopf said.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney also backed the appeal action.
“I applaud the Trump Administration’s effort to end federal management of the grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by requesting the federal appeals court reverse the decision that prevents grizzly bears from being delisted,” Cheney said.
Cheney previously filed a bill seeking to restore Wyoming’s management authority of the bears. She said she is happy the administration is acting “to combat frivolous abuse of the court system by extreme environmental groups.”
One environmental group did not react favorably.
“Rather than create a plan to truly recover grizzlies in the West, the Trump administration wants to spend more time and money in court,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Yellowstone’s beloved grizzly bears deserve better, and we’re prepared to fight vigorously to defend the court’s determination that grizzly bears still need federal protection.”
Grosskopf said even an appeals victory would just reopen other issues not yet ruled upon, such as the Native tribes’ opinions and Wyoming’s hunting plan.
Grosskopf said it may take Congress stepping in to overrule the courts by setting some specific rules related to the bears.
“Congress has to act,” he said.