Could this be an opening?
Could this provide an opportunity for states to regain control of authority over Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears?
Last week’s announcement the Trump Administration plans to loosen rules governing the Endangered Species Act makes me wonder if someone could make an end-around of last September’s federal court ruling voiding the delisting of the bears.
In 2017, after 40 years of monitoring and watching the bears rebound from a low population of 136 to 700 or more, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the species recovered.
Supervision of the animal was returned to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Wyoming promulgated a plan to allow a limited hunt, but everything was halted by a judge in Missoula, Mont.
One reason the court gave for ordering Fish and Wildlife to take back control was the viewpoint the agency had not followed the Act’s procedures.
Well, what if the procedures change? Can Fish and Wildlife, which would have to meet a less stringent standard under the pending changes, submit a fresh order?
The Department of the Interior was going to print its new rules weakening the Endangered Species Act in the Federal Register, triggering the start of a 30-day waiting period before enactment. Perhaps this means Fish and Wildlife can give grizzly bear delisting another try.
Would these new procedures render the judge’s opinion moot?
This is not to say the overall game plan to diminish the Endangered Species Act is a good idea. The far-reaching legislation has been viewed in many ways as a great success and being of great benefit to several species, grizzly bears included, and bald eagles specifically.
It has been shown for centuries that left to their own devices Americans will run rampant over the land, push out every animal in the way and in general give no thought to species’ future survival if they can dig a mine, harvest coal or oil or build a subdivision in a suburb. Indeed, the story of 20th and 21st century outdoors is nature versus development.
Those who view the latest White House action as the gutting of the Act, making it easier for energy interests and big business to run roughshod over threatened species, can hardly be disputed.
Those who shout that the Act is outdated and too burdensome are exaggerating many cases. Those who feel protections need to be stronger are sometimes blind to balance.
We need an ESA law. It is appropriate to review every case, every species carefully. Neither extreme, black or white, is the way to go.
In some densely populated areas of the country building a refinery or seeing a grizzly in the wild are almost abstract questions. They are someone else’s issues. Not so in Wyoming. This is a battleground for both sides.
Tweaking the Endangered Species Act is more appropriate than wrecking it. Destroying the option for business development is inappropriate too.
My pondering aside about what Fish and Wildlife might do doesn’t matter much, anyway, because the next step will be more court action, perhaps taking years to resolve.