Animal Rights

A Montana Judge May Have Just Saved This Grizzly Bear From Extinction

The bear had inexplicably been removed from the endangered species list.

Grizzly bear at Glacier National Park.
Photo Credit: Erwin and Peggy Bauer, USFWS

A federal judge in Montana has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke the law in 2014 when it tried to remove a threatened grizzly bear population from the endangered species list.

Fewer than 50 members of this bear population remain. They live among the Cabinet Mountains and Yaak River drainage in northwest Montana.

Montana conservation group Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued the Fish and Wildlife Service, arguing that the bears could become extinct without increased restrictions on human activities that harmed their habitat.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's bizarre reason for trying to delist the bears was a shift in their population status to stable, despite the fact that the population remains vanishingly small.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen's ruling forces the Fish and Wildlife Service to create a new proposal if it wants to downgrade the bears' protections. According to Reuters, the original listed reason for removing the bears' endangered status was "unlawfully arbitrary and capricious."

This decision does not appear to have any overt implications for the Yellowstone grizzlies, which were delisted earlier this year. But it sets a strong precedent for future legal battles over the protection of endangered animal populations.

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Chris Sosa is the former Senior Editor of AlterNet. His work also appears in Mic, Salon, Care2, Huffington Post and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSosa.