A federal judge in Montana renewed protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park on Monday, according to NBC News. Grizzly bears have not been legally hunted in the lower 48 states for more than 40 years.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said in his ruling that his decision was not about the ethics of hunting. Rather, when the federal government removed grizzlies from the Endangered Species Act last year, it failed to consider how the move would impact grizzly bears living outside the Yellowstone area, NPR reported.
In his ruling, Christensen explained that grizzly bears don’t roam all over the Western states, but live together in isolated pockets. He added that the government’s decision last year did not take into account that grizzly populations haven’t started connecting together, and delisting grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem “would impact the other grizzly populations.”
Christensen’s ruling against the federal government sided with a group of Native American tribes, who were fighting to protect the bears. “We have a responsibility to speak for the bears, who cannot speak for themselves,” said Lawrence Killsback, president of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, according to NY Mag’s Daily Intelligencer. “Today, we celebrate this victory and will continue to advocate on behalf of the Yellowstone grizzly bears until the population is recovered.”
In his ruling, Christensen wrote, “The Service cannot abuse its power to delist an already-protected species by ‘balkanization.'”