A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it authorized killing four grizzly bears in Grand Teton National Park.
The Fish and Wildlife Service okayed killing the bears in the wake of an event in 2012. Three elk hunters had shot a grizzly in self-defense.
Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team Leader Frank T. van Manen says the Wildlife Service’s goal was to protect elk hunters from conflict with the bears.
"There’s elk remains, piles, things like that. Those are food sources that grizzly bears are attracted to."
But a U.S. District court judge said Wednesday that allowing additional grizzlies to be killed violates the Endangered Species Act.
Environmental defense groups that brought the lawsuit say the Fish and Wildlife Service should have taken into account the potential killings of 63 grizzly bears they had already authorized before making the decision to protect hunters.
Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso says the Endangered Species Act is important to maintain because it took so long to build the grizzly population to what it is now.
"The law, it has some great principles embodied in it. But they’re only as good as their enforcement. Otherwise, they’re just words on paper."
Center for Biological Diversity Attorney Andrea Santasiere says that there are other ways to protect humans from conflict with bears in the park.
"Well, one thing they could do is stop artificially feeding elk so that the population isn’t so high. And stop elk hunting in Grand Teton National Park."
Santasiere says Grand Teton is one of the only national parks in the country that allows for hunting.