WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the following statement on the decision by a federal judge to place the grizzly bear in Wyoming back on the endangered species list.

In June of 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to remove the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) list of threatened species. Delisting the grizzly transferred management of the bear to the state of Wyoming.

“This judge’s decision is wrong and unsupported by the facts,” said Barrasso. “Yet again, the courts are replacing science-based recovery measures with personal political preference. The grizzly is recovered in Wyoming. Period. Even the Obama administration determined that the grizzly should be delisted. The state has a strong, science-based plan in place for the management of the bear. That plan should have a chance to demonstrate its success.

“This is a prime example why Congress should modernize the Endangered Species Act. We should elevate the role of states and local experts who are on the ground working with the grizzly – and other endangered species - on a daily basis. They should have the opportunity to put the strong management principles they developed in place.”

Background Information:

On March 3, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed to delist the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) from the federal threatened species list. According to the USFWS, “The Yellowstone grizzly bear population has rebounded from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 or more today. Grizzly bears have more than doubled their range since the mid-1970s and now occupy more than 22,500 square miles of the ecosystem. Stable population numbers for grizzly bears for more than a decade also indicate that the GYE is at or near its carrying capacity for the bears.”  

On June 30, 2017, the USFWS published the final rule to delist the grizzly bear in the GYE. The USFWS noted, “The participating States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and Federal agencies have adopted the necessary post-delisting plans and regulations, which adequately ensure that the GYE population of grizzly bears remains recovered.”

On July 2, 2018, Barrasso released the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018 discussion draft. The discussion draft reauthorizes the ESA for the first time since 1992. The discussion draft emphasizes elevating the role of states and increasing transparency in the implementation of the ESA. It also prioritizes resources to better meet its conservation goals and provides regulatory certainty to promote conservation and recovery activities. The draft legislation has received broad support from stakeholders, state and local governments, and conservation organizations.

Barrasso has worked with the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in drafting the legislation. The bipartisan WGA has stated that the chairman’s discussion draft legislation is generally consistent with the WGA recommendations for modernizing the ESA and includes provisions inspired by the association’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, led by Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming.

On July 17, 2018, the EPW Committee held a legislative hearing on the draft legislation. The hearing featured testimony from Gov. Mead.