A federal court in Missoula ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday to issue an overdue report assessing how threatened grizzly bears in the Lower 48 are doing. The order stems from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in U.S. District Court this summer.
Andrea Santarsiere is a lead attorney for the center. She says under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to file a status report every five years detailing whether listed species are moving toward or away from goals outlined in the agency’s recovery plan. The agency last issued a report for grizzlies in 2011.
"We basically asked the court to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue and updated status report that is required by the [Endangered Species] Act, and also to update their outdated recovery plan," Santarsiere says.
A court order Monday says federal wildlife managers have until March 31, 2021 to issue a new report for the threatened species.
The order doesn’t completely resolve the case. The Center for Biological Diversity is also asking the court to order Fish and Wildlife to update its 1993 recovery plan for grizzlies and to consider reintroducing the species outside of the Northern Rockies, where current populations live.
"So there is historic habitat, for example, in Utah and Colorado that we think is still suitable habitat for grizzly bears to be reintroduced and to recover there," Santarsiere says.
She says briefs over those two issues could be filed by early 2020. That would set the stage for oral arguments.
A request for comment from the Fish and Wildlife Service was not returned in time for this story.