Wyoming Governor Defies Federal ESA, Signs Bill Authorizing Grizzly Bear Hunting

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill authorizing the state's Game & Fish Commission to establish a grizzly bear hunt or relocation plan, in the interest of public safety. Animal rights groups plan to sue.

Wyoming Governor Defies Federal ESA, Signs Bill Authorizing Grizzly Bear Hunting

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has signed a bill authorizing the state's wildlife agency to set a hunting season for grizzly bears or establish a trap-and-relocate program for the bruins.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill Feb. 15 authorizing the state's Game & Fish Commission to establish a grizzly bear hunt or relocation plan, in the interest of public safety. Animal rights groups have announced they will sue.

Gordon's signature on the bill, SF 0093, defies a federal judge's ruling last autumn that returned the bears to federal Endangered Species Act protection. The Wyoming bill cites the Tenth Amendment that "guarantees to the states and their people all powers not granted to the federal government elsewhere in the Constitution."

The bill authorizes "the game and fish commission to hold a grizzly bear hunt or facilitate a relocation as specified; and providing for an effective date." Sen. Wyatt Agar (R-Thermopolis) sponsored the bill. it had 11 co-sponsors in the Senate and House.

The bill says grizzly bears have recovered in the Greater Yellowstone area to sufficient, if not higher, numbers than outlined in the ESA recovery specifications. Estimates put grizzly numbers at 700 or more in the area. The judge who returned the bears to federal protection said they have not recovered sufficiently enough. His ruling ended planned hunts in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the first in more than 40 years.

The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Western Watersheds Project notified Wyoming officials on Feb. 20 of their intent to sue. Included was the director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The groups say due to the federal protection and oversite, Wyoming officials cannot legally authorize a hunt. 

Sen. Agar's bill cited the need to protect citizens, tourists, workers along with appropriate management. Wyoming officials did not respond publicly to the animal rights groups' intent to sue.

This is from Agar's bill outlining the two options he suggests Wyoming Game & Fish pursue:

Section 2.

(a)  If the game and fish commission determines under the laws of the state of Wyoming that a grizzly bear hunt would be beneficial for managing Wyoming's wildlife and for protecting Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state, the game and fish commission may conduct a grizzly bear hunt and shall issue licenses as provided in W.S. 23‑1‑302(p) and in the rules of the commission, which shall provide for the dates, times and locations of the hunts.

(b)  Grizzly bears are trapped and relocated in Wyoming and in some cases are euthanized for livestock depredation, property damage or endangerment of human life. If the game and fish commission determines under the laws of the state of Wyoming that extraterritorial relocation would be beneficial for managing Wyoming's wildlife and protecting Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state, the game and fish commission may relocate to the state of California, to states with a grizzly bear population below the threshold for Endangered Species Act protection or to other willing states with suitable habitat all grizzly bears trapped for relocation or that would otherwise be euthanized.


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