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Wolf Ruling May Sway Griz Case

A U.S. Court of Appeal’s ruling Tuesday about wolves that roam the Great Lakes states could have major implications for grizzly bears 1,000 miles away in the Yellowstone region.

After the court found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had improperly assessed how carving out and “delisting” the distinct segment of more than 3,000 wolves in the Upper Midwest affects the rest of the species, it vacated a rule that allowed Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to manage the species.

Environmental attorneys halfway across the country in the Northern Rockies say it’s a ruling that helps their impending legal squabble over recently delisted Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears.

“We believe that the Yellowstone delisting rule has the same fatal flaw as the Great Lakes delisting rule,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a Victor, Idaho, resident and senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This strengthens our claim.”

That flaw, or “fundamental error” in the words of U.S. Circuit Judge Patricia Millett, was that Fish and Wildlife did not address how “extracting” and delisting a population segment of wolves would affect remaining wolves in the species’ range.

“The Service cannot circumvent the Endangered Species Act’s explicit delisting standards by riving an existing listing into a recovered sub-group and a leftover group that becomes an orphan to the law,” Millett wrote in her opinion. “Such a statutory dodge is the essence of arbitrary-and-capricious and ill-reasoned agency action.”

Millett and her appeals court colleagues also found that federal managers improperly “brushed off” the substantial loss of wolves’ historical range as “irrelevant to the species’ endangered or threatened status.”

But the panel of judges, who ruled from Washington, D.C., did find that Fish and Wildlife’s general approach of delisting a “distinct population segment” complied with the Endangered Species Act. The analysis and execution, they found, is what was illegal.

Read full article: Wolf Ruling May Sway Griz Case

Photo:  Bradley Boner, JHNG

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