A group of wildlife advocates is suing the federal government, saying they need to have more of a role in helping to prevent grizzly bear deaths on national forest land in Idaho and Wyoming.
The U.S. Forest Service issued an environmental assessment in 1995 that let those states regulate bear baiting on national forest land. Baiting is the hunting practice of luring bears with food.
Wildlife advocates say letting the states have the final say when it comes to baiting in national forests is a problem because the bait can attract grizzly bears from the nearby Yellowstone ecosystem – and those bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“This isn’t about baiting or hunting, per se. It’s about those practices as they affect grizzly bears, which are protected under federal law,” said Pete Frost, a lawyer with the Western Environmental Law Center.
But according to the suit, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service had previously thought no grizzlies would be in danger.
“It thought there would only be a remote possibility that any grizzlies would’ve been taken and since that time there have been many that have been shot over bait,” Frost said.
Since 1995, he says at least eight grizzlies have been killed on national forest land in Idaho and Wyoming. Even more have been killed at bait stations on other public or private lands, according to the suit.
Frost says the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife need to re-evaluate if states should have the final say in bear baiting regulations when it comes to national forests.
Both agencies declined to comment on pending litigation.