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Judge orders wildlife officials to review grizzly management in the Bitterroot

Closeup of a grizzly bear.

A federal judge in Missoula Tuesday ordered wildlife officials to reevaluate their efforts to establish a grizzly bear population in Southwest Montana and central Idaho.

Missoula U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy says federal wildlife officials failed to protect an emerging population of bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

Environmental groups argued that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service violated federal law by failing to follow through on the agency’s plan to conserve bears that traveled into the region from other populations.

The service’s plan, more than two decades old, says that if bears returned to the uninhabited ecosystem on their own, the agency would need to implement habitat and other protections for the population under the Endangered Species Act. Malloy said the service needs to reevaluate how it’s managing Bitterroot bears.

Environmental groups involved in the case hope that the ruling will force federal wildlife officials to stop transporting bears that have conflicts with humans out of the ecosystem and provide more protections.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s reviewing the decision, but didn’t provide further comment.

At their peak, grizzly bears numbered more than 50,000 in the Lower 48. They roamed from the West Coast to the Great Plains, from northern Alaska to…

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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