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Little: State to sue on grizzly delisting

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | February 3, 2023 1:09 AM

Gov. Brad Little notified the Biden administration Thursday he intends to sue the federal government for its failure to uphold the law and make a required finding on the state's petition to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list.

“Idaho’s entire congressional delegation and I are lockstep in our demand for answers from the federal government about grizzly bear delisting," Little said in a press release. "Idaho has continually demonstrated leadership in species management, and we expect the federal government to uphold its duties in providing clarity around issues that greatly impact a variety of activities on the ground in our state."

More than 10 months ago, Idaho petitioned for delisting the “lower-48” grizzly bear, saying it does not qualify as a “species” under the Endangered Species Act.

Under the ESA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was required to make a 90-day finding by June 7, 2022, but failed to do so, the release said.

While black bears are common throughout the Panhandle, grizzlies are most often observed in the Cabinet and Selkirk mountain ranges.

It's estimated there are 40 to 50 grizzly bears in North Idaho. It is rare to encounter a grizzly in Kootenai County.

"Keep in mind these bears can be wide ranging and they move between state and country borders frequently," wrote Barb McCall Moore, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife biologist, in a previous story in The Press.

Because grizzly bears are federally protected in North Idaho, there is no hunting season.

Intentionally shooting a grizzly bear is a felony and may include up to $10,000 in civil penalties.

In the letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Little said, “USFWS has provided only vague excuses and evasive answers as to why the agency has not made an initial determination on Idaho’s petition. USFWS’ lack of transparency on this subject has persisted, despite requests to discuss this subject at various meetings."

Little said unless the USFWS makes an initial determination on Idaho’s petition within the next 60 days, the state intends to file suit.

“A determination on Idaho’s petition is what the ESA requires and what grizzly bear conservation and Idahoans deserve," he wrote.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Panhandle Region, declined to comment Thursday.