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Gov. Little sends letter, warns to sue feds over failure to remove grizzlies from endangered list

In 2022, the state of Idaho started a petition to remove the "lower-48" grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Credit: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY
A grizzly bear living at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. Animals living in the discovery center were either rescued from the wild, or faced euthanization because they posed a danger to humans.

IDAHO, USA — The State of Idaho sent notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Wednesday over the Biden Administration’s failure to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list.

The letter is addressed to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. 

It states that the listing of grizzly bears of the conterminous (lower 48) U.S. on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife is an ongoing unlawful federal action because it exceeds USFWS’ statutory authority under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The letter says this listing unlawfully applies the ESA’s protections to an entity that is not a “species” as defined by the Act under 16 U.S. Code § 1532(16).

“Idaho’s entire congressional delegation and the State of Idaho are lockstep in efforts to delist grizzly bears. Idaho has continually demonstrated leadership in species management, and we have never hesitated to push back on the federal government’s overreaching actions that greatly impact a variety of activities on the ground in our state,” Gov. Brad Little said in a statement.

Attorney General Raúl Labrador said Politicians in Washington continue to use outdated endangered species protections to encroach on state sovereignty.

"Our state intends to conserve our grizzly populations while balancing the need for limiting dangerous human-bear interactions. This issue, like most, belongs in the hands of the state, not the federal government,” Labrador said.

According to Little's statement, over a year ago, Idaho petitioned for delisting the “lower-48” grizzly bear because it does not qualify as a “species” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The statement says under the ESA, the USFWS was required to make a 90-day finding by June 7, 2022, but failed to do so. In February of 2023, Gov. Little sent a letter to USFWS demanding the agency uphold the law and make a required finding on the State of Idaho’s petition to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list. 

The agency responded with a decision, and the State of Idaho has been working on its appeal of the decision, which was filed on Wednesday. 

“The State of Idaho has been and continues to be 100% committed to the conservation of grizzly bears, as the actions of local communities, landowners, recreationists and state government have demonstrated. This action is in response to a flawed ESA listing almost 50 years ago that has now become a barrier to the delisting of recovered populations,” Jim Fredericks,  Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director, said.

The State of Idaho’s notice that was first filed in February of this year. Gov. Little states, in part, that “Idaho does not send this notice lightly."

"We prefer to invest the resources of federal and state conservation agencies on actual conservation, rather than on lawsuits. However, the current listed entity does not meet the ESA definition of ‘species,’ and we have robust grizzly bear populations that continue to cause conflict in our rural communities and injure Idaho’s sovereign interests in managing our resident wildlife and conservation resources," Gov. Little said in the letter.

To read the State of Idaho’s 60-day notice of intent to sue the federal government, click here.

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