Last week a federal judge in Montana ruled that the population of grizzly bears in the
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is not enough to justify last year's removal of protection from the Endangered Species Act.
One of the plaintiffs, says the 700 or so Yellowstone grizzlies comprise a fraction of the species' historic population.
"Grizzly bears still only occupy less than five percent of their historic range," said Andrea Santarsiere of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Yellowstone grizzly bears are completely isolated from any other grizzly bear population, and that's just not recovery under the Endangered Species Act."
Last week's ruling effectively stopped hunts for grizzly bears in Idaho and Wyoming.
"It's disappointing to us and to the hunters who had hunts scheduled in two states," said Idaho Fish and Game's Toby Beaudreau,
Beaudreau says the hunter who drew the single grizzly tag in Idaho has asked for a rain check. If the Fish and Game Commission doesn't approve, he will receive a refund.
But the tribes and environmental groups who sued want more than just stopping hunters from killing grizzlies near Yellowstone Park. They want to see grizzly bears roaming from Yellowstone all the way to the Canadian border.
"We think grizzly bears need to establish throughout their recovery zones in the lower forty eight before removing federal protection," said Santarsiere.
One of those recovery zones is the the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness in central Idaho. Many Idahoans say re-introducing grizzlies would pose a risk not only to humans but to other species... Especially endangered salmon populations which were a main source of food when the bears thrived here.
Beaudreau says he doesn't think grizzlies will roam the Selway Bitterroot anytime soon. "Recovering the Selway Bitterroot is so far beyond where we are now, with the Yellowstone, or NDCE it's not an issue, or not going to be an issue for decades."
The governor's office plans to meet with officials from Wyoming and Montana to decide how to respond to the re-listing of Yellowstone grizzlies.