Conservation groups are filing a lawsuit to stop black bear baiting, which they believe has resulted in the death of protected grizzly bears.
The federal judge, US Judge Candy Dale, issued a ruling that allowed a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to proceed despite the withdrawal of important documents by the US Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit seeks to ban black bear baiting in national forests across Idaho and Wyoming. It shot down a second request from the Trump administration to dismiss the case.
The plaintiffs fear that the baiting of the bears, in which food is left out and hidden until the animal is in the shooting range, has resulted in the deaths of at least ten nationally protected grizzly bears. However, the Trump administration argued that the case should be dismissed as it last summer “withdrew some documents from the mid-1990s” that serve as the basis for the case.
The federal policy cited in the lawsuit allows states to decide whether hunters can use black bear bait in areas that are also home to protected grizzly bears, including national forests. The practice is widely recognized for hunting black bears as they are not considered endangered and therefore not protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Photo by Leila Boujnane on Unsplash
In giving her decision, Dale said these documents were “used to create the 1995 Hunting Rule, which remains in effect” and that their withdrawal will not affect the issue that is being contested.
“In particular,” said Dale, “the US Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which are formally withdrawing the documents – a biological statement and a casual statement – are not disputing the case as baited black bear hunting continues. ” As a result, the activity in question did not cease voluntarily. “
“States should not allow bait that can attract grizzly bears and cause them to die,” said Pete Frost, attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center, the law firm that represents environmental groups. “Grizzlies have been shot near bait and more can die unless the forest service acts properly.”
In its decision, it allowed the Western Watersheds Project and two others to decide whether to supplement their original complaint about the withdrawal of these documents in the mid-1990s by claiming it was illegal. She asked both sides to prepare their arguments for a future court date without specifically deciding on the merits of the case.
The 1995 policy, approved by the US Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, allows “no accidental killing of grizzly bears”. However, conservation groups are questioning this, claiming it didn’t work and hoping to eliminate future deaths of the ESA protected animal. Currently, baiting is permitted in regions known to contain grizzlies, such as between the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the Bitterroot ecosystem in central Idaho, and between the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem in northwest Montana and the Bitterroot ecosystem .
Idaho, Wyoming and the Safari Club International hunting party have all joined the Trump administration. However, later that summer, Dale declined an earlier request to throw the case on a “technical argument” in which the US Fish and Wildlife Service stated that it “lacked legal authority to consult with the US Forest Service regarding bear bait resuming under the Endangered Species Act, ”the records read. She called this technique “no merit” and let the case go on.
Lawsuit against the Idaho, Wyoming, bear bait ban continues
Judge allows lawsuit banning bear bait in Idaho, Wyoming