Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Wyoming

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Wildlife Law
  • Date Filed: 11-22-2011
  • Case #: 09-36100; 10-35043; 10-35052; 10-35053; and 10-35054
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tallman for the Court; Circuit Judge Graber; Circuit Judge S. Thomas partial concurrence and dissent
  • Full Text Opinion

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created adequate “regulatory mechanisms” to protect the Yellowstone grizzly bear as a recovered species but did not provide sufficient reasons as to why the reduction of a major food source would not negatively impact the grizzly population in order to uphold the ruling removing them from the threatened species list.

In 1975, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("the Service") listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the contiguous U.S. under the Endangered Species Act. Due to extensive conservation measures in the Yellowstone region in recent decades, including a recovery plan implemented by the Service, the grizzly bear population has made a comeback, which prompted the Service to take the Yellowstone grizzly off the threatened species list. In 2007, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition ("GYC") filed suit alleging that the Service’s removal of the Yellowstone grizzly from the threatened species list was erroneous. The district court granted GYC’s summary judgment motion, finding that the Service had not provided sufficient support to reach its conclusions that the Yellowstone grizzly was no longer threatened. The Service appealed. The Ninth Circuit reviewed the Service’s actions to delist the grizzly to “ensure that the agency considered the relevant factors and articulated a rational connection between the facts found and the choices made.” The Court found that the Service’s explanations that the reduction in the number of whitebark pine in the region, a major food source for grizzlies, would not in turn have a negative impact on the grizzly population, to be unconvincing. However, the Court disagreed with the district court’s ruling that “adequate regulatory mechanisms were [not] in place” because the Service could have logically concluded that the “regulatory mechanisms” put in place in anticipation of delisting the grizzlies were adequate to preserve a restored grizzly population. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED and REMANDED in part.

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