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Crow Indian Tribe v. United States of America

Why We Fight:

At Mountain States Legal Foundation, we fight for hard-working people like 88-year-old Mary A. Thoman and her family, who have raised sheep in western Wyoming for many generations. Their safety and livelihood is threatened by a fast-growing population of grizzly bears.

The Thoman family had to give up their grazing lands because these formidable predators preyed upon their livestock and endangered ranch workers.

In 2017, scientists agreed that it was time to remove the Yellowstone grizzly from the Endangered Species List. But special interest groups sued to get the grizzly back on the list. If they succeed, state and local officials will no longer be able to manage the swelling grizzly population.

People who carry the burden of living among dangerous predators like the grizzly bear must be heard when those from elsewhere ignore their impact on human beings.

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Summary:

Although the grizzly bear population in western Wyoming is recovered fully and can be managed by State wildlife officials consistent with the needs of its human neighbors, environmental groups demand that the grizzly bear remains on the Endangered Species Act list.

Legal Question:

Whether the federal government may both designate a distinct population of a species and remove that population from the Endangered Species Act list?

Plaintiffs:

Crow Indian Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Piikani Nation, The Crazy Dog Society, Hopi Nation Bear Clan, Northern Arapaho Elders Society, David Bearshield, Kenny Bowekaty, Llev Ando Fisher, Elise Ground, Arvol Looking Horse, Travis Plaited Hair, Jimmy St. Goddard, Pete Standing Alone, And Nolan Yellow Kidney

Defendants:

United States of America Ryan Zinke, Secretary, United States Department of the Interior, the United Stated Department of the Interior, Jim Kurth, Acting Director, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or his Successor in Office, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Hilary Cooley, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator

Intervenors:

W&M Thoman Ranches, LLC, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, and Charles C. Price, all represented by MSLF

Court:

U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, Missoula Division
A decision by the federal district court on MSLF's motion to intervene for its clients.

In June of 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to designate the grizzly bear population in the so-called Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as a “distinct population segment,” meaning it is a “discrete” but “significant” part of the national grizzly bear population.  In addition, the agency found, after extensive research and careful monitoring, that the region’s grizzly bear population exceeded the minimum population goal set by scientists in 2013, was recovered fully, and was no longer in danger of becoming extinct.  (There is only a one percent chance the grizzly bear could become extinct within the next 100 years.)  Therefore, the FWS removed the region’s grizzly bear population from any Endangered Species Act listing, which allows Wyoming wildlife officials to manage grizzly bear populations in the Equality State. 

Starting in the summer of 2017, various environmental groups and American Indian tribes sued to reverse the agency’s action, including a lawsuit filed in Montana.  On February 28, 2018, MSLF filed a motion to intervene on behalf of its clients.


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