Thursday, February 01, 2018

U.S. ordered to reconsider denial of Yellowstone bison protections

A judge has ruled that U.S. wildlife managers erred in denying Endangered Species Act protection to bison at Yellowstone National Park and must reconsider extending such safeguards to America’s largest pure-bred herd of wild buffalo. The decision was welcomed on Thursday by wildlife advocates who petitioned the Obama administration in 2014 to protect bison in and around Yellowstone, where animals wandering outside park boundaries are culled for slaughter by the hundreds each year. The seasonal culling is supported by ranchers in the region, particularly in Montana, concerned about exposure of livestock to disease, competition for grass and property damage from straying bison. “This is a victory for bison,” Ken Cole, director of the Buffalo Field Campaign, told Reuters by telephone. Officials for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they were reviewing the ruling, issued on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in the District of Columbia. The Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2015 that conservation groups had failed to present sufficient evidence that the Yellowstone buffalo band was imperiled. Cooper ruled that the Interior Department agency had erroneously failed to consider or otherwise ignored evidence indicating Yellowstone bison may be threatened or endangered. The ruling hinged on a scientific dispute over whether there are two genetically distinct populations of bison at Yellowstone, known respectively as a central herd and a northern herd. Conservationists cited research suggesting the government’s overall target at the park of 3,000 bison was too low to prevent extinction of one or both of them. Government biologists dismissed that research. But Cooper said the Fish and Wildlife Service was required by law to explain why it found the research irrelevant, and he ordered a new agency review of whether Yellowstone bison merit protections...more

The court's opinion is embedded below:

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