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Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Servheen

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20347
Nos. 09-36100 et al., (9th Cir., 11/22/2011)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a lower court decision vacating the FWS' decision to remove the Yellowstone distinct population segment of grizzly bears from the ESA's threatened species list. Given the lack of data indicating grizzly population stability in the face of whitebark pine declines, and the substantial data indicating a direct correlation between whitebark pine seed availability and grizzly survival and reproduction, the FWS failed to articulate a rational connection between the data in the record and its determination that whitebark pine declines were not a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly. The FWS' delisting rule presents no data indicating that whitebark pine declines will not threaten the Yellowstone grizzly population, yet there is considerable data pointing in the opposite direction. And while it is understandable that the FWS does not yet know what impact whitebark pine declines may have on the Yellowstone grizzly, it is not enough for the Service to simply invoke "scientific uncertainty" to justify its action. But the FWS rationally supported its conclusion that adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to maintain a recovered Yellowstone grizzly population without the ESA's staunch protections.