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Court rejects authorization

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On May 25, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an authorization by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to kill up to 72 grizzly bears on public lands near Yellowstone National Park, ruling the authorization violated federal law. 

According to the court, the agencies’ authorization to allow a 10-year livestock grazing period in the Upper Green River Area Rangeland infringed upon the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Forest Management Act by disregarding how many bears could be killed before threatening the population.

Livestock predation

The authorization made its debut in 2019, when USFS and FWS granted a 10-year grazing extension for nearly 9,000 head of cattle on 270 square miles of land in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. 

With this extension, the agencies announced they would allow wildlife managers to kill up to 72 grizzlies over the course of these 10 years in an effort to reduce the instance of livestock predation. 

Livestock deaths caused by grizzlies in the northwest corner of Wyoming have become increasingly common since the species’ population numbers have surged nearly tenfold, to as many as 1,000, as the result of their continued protection under the ESA. 

In fact, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) 2021 Annual Grizzly Bear Captured Report, 45 individual grizzlies were captured, the majority of which were due to livestock killings. 

“In comparison to 2020, conflicts – especially with livestock – increased. This is due to the growing number of bears on the landscape expanding beyond their suitable range and spilling into areas they haven’t been in recent history,” says Brian DeBolt, WGFD large carnivore conflict coordinator.

In the 2022 report, WGFD notes 21 individual grizzlies were captured, 10 of which were a result of bears killing livestock. 


Following USFS and FWS’s authorization, environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, filed two separate lawsuits in March 2020, arguing the plan violated the ESA, the National Forest Management Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. 

They also noted the plan should specify limits on killing female grizzlies and cubs, specifically.

The U.S. District Court of Wyoming originally ruled against the groups, but after appealing to the 10th Circuit Court, USFS and FWS’s authorization was deemed “arbitrary and capricious” and ultimately overturned. 

In a Daily Montanan article, written by Blair Miller and published on May 27, Western Watersheds Project Appeals Attorney Megan Backsen calls the court’s decision a victory for grizzlies and other wildlife in the area. 

“The court recognized USFS cannot ignore its own experts, particularly when those experts warn a decision will harm those species depending on intact ecosystems for their very survival,” Backsen says.

Andrea Zaccardi, legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity’s carnivore conservation program, comments, “We’re hopeful in reconsidering their flawed analysis, the agencies will spare dozens of female grizzly bears previously sentenced to death by the Trump administration. This ruling confirms federal officials can’t sidestep the law to allow grizzly bears to be killed on public lands to appease the livestock industry.”

As of May 31, agriculture industry stakeholders have yet to express their opinions on the matter.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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