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U.S. reviews rule removing protections for Yellowstone grizzlies

By Laura Zuckerman

PINEDALE, Wyo., Dec 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service is reviewing a decision to strip some grizzly bears of
federal protections after a court ruling found flaws with a
formula used to delist Great Lakes wolves, officials said on
Wednesday.

A similar method was used in the agency's decision earlier
this year to strip grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone
National Park of Endangered Species Act protections, a move
challenged in court by conservationists.

For now, the roughly 700 bears remain delisted, paving the
way for trophy hunting, while the Fish and Wildlife Service
reviews the earlier rule and seeks public comment on the case,
according to agency spokesman Steve Segin.

"The rule is legally sufficient, which is why it remains in
place," he said.

In August, a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the
Fish and Wildlife Service erred in delisting wolves in the Great
Lakes region by failing to evaluate how removing safeguards from
that subgroup of wolves might affect remaining wolf populations.

The agency used a similar methodology for Yellowstone-area
bears, with U.S. wildlife managers delisting them without
assessing impacts on other grizzly populations in the Lower 48
states, said Kelly Nokes, large carnivore advocate for WildEarth
Guardians, which is challenging the delisting.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service should be withdrawing the
rule instead of trying to paper over their mistakes with a
review and public comment period," she said.

Segin said that Wednesday's move was the culmination of
efforts undertaken by the government as soon as the decision was
handed down in August.

After the grizzly bear delisting in July, states adjacent to
the park -- Wyoming, Montana and Idaho -- were given management
of the animals, opening the door for trophy hunting outside the
park.

Idaho continues to operate under the assumption that it has
management of grizzlies that wander outside Yellowstone, the
state's Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler said by telephone
on Wednesday.

"Our take is we consider the bears to be delisted," he said.

Hunting, trapping and poisoning had caused the number of
grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region to plummet to 136 in
1975, when the outsized, hump-shouldered creatures were listed
as threatened in the Lower 48.

Groups representing ranchers and hunters, which strongly
supported the delisting of Yellowstone-area bears because they
can prey on livestock and big-game animals like elk favored by
sportsmen, did not immediately respond to requests for comment
on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Patrick Enright and
Sandra Maler)

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