Groups sue over continued grazing in Wyoming grizzly habitat

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Conservation groups sued the U.S. government Tuesday over livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest, saying grizzly bears are too often killed by ranchers and wildlife managers for pursuing cattle in such settings.

Forest officials decided in October to allow livestock grazing to continue across more than 260 square miles (690 square kilometers) in the Green River headwaters of Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Biologists found that as many as 72 grizzly bears could be killed if necessary in the area over a decade without harming the overall grizzly population in the greater Yellowstone region. The bears are classified as a threatened species.

The conservation groups dispute the finding and the decision to allow the grazing, pointing out that 35 bears have been killed on the grazing allotments since 1999 due to run-ins with humans involving livestock. Planned measures to reduce such encounters, such as by moving cattle carcasses away from roads, aren’t sufficient or enforceable, the groups allege.

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“It’s outrageous that the feds are caving to the livestock industry by allowing dozens of grizzly bears to be killed in their crucial habitats on public lands,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Andrea Santarsiere said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Bridger-Teton National Forest spokeswoman Mary Cernicek declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Federal officials have concluded that the greater Yellowstone region’s population of over 700 grizzlies is large enough to justify lifting the animals’ protection under the Endangered Species Act.

A federal judge in Montana in 2018 overturned a decision to declassify Yellowstone’s grizzlies as a threatened species. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming officials are appealing the court ruling.

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