Decide permits trial aimed toward banning bear bait – Authorized Reader
A federal judge has denied a Trump administration motion for the second time to dismiss a lawsuit filed by environmental groups banning bear bait for hunting black bears in national forests in Idaho and Wyoming.
Black bear; Image courtesy of ArtTower via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com
The groups say allowing the use of bait is against environmental laws because hunters killed at least 10 federally protected grizzly bears that were attracted to the bait.
The Trump administration argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it withdrew some of the documents on which the lawsuit was based last summer in the mid-1990s.
U.S. Judge Candy Dale denied the government’s request last week, saying these documents were used to create the 1995 Hunting Rule, which remains in effect.
The U.S. government’s national policy pursued in the lawsuit enables states to decide whether hunters can use bait for black bears in grizzly habitats, including national forests. Idaho and Wyoming allow practice.
According to Dale, the US Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service, which are formally withdrawing the documents – a biological statement and a casual statement – are not raising the case as baited black bear hunting continues.
“As a result, the activity challenged did not voluntarily cease,” Dale wrote.
Dale didn’t make the decision. She ordered each side to discuss the proposed timetable for additional trials.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which defends federal agencies in legal proceedings, did not respond to a request for comments sent through its online media portal.
In particular, Dale noted that both withdrawn documents were cited specifically in support of the US Forest Service’s conclusion that national bear bait policies, in effect in all states, provide the necessary safeguards to allow bear bait.
In its decision, Dale also allowed the Western Watersheds Project and two other environmental groups to file an amendment to their original complaint about the withdrawal of these documents in the mid-1990s, which the environmental groups believe are illegal.
Hunters who use bait hand out food in the forest and hide, waiting for a bear to come into the shooting range.
In the lawsuit filed in 2019, environmental groups argue that in the more than two decades since the directive came into force, black bear hunters who use bait have killed at least 10 grizzly bears. The bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Conservation groups say bait is allowed in areas important to grizzly bears, such as between the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the Bitterroot ecosystem in central Idaho, and between the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem in northwest Montana and the Bitterroot ecosystem .
Idaho, Wyoming and the Safari Club International hunting group are on the side of the federal government in the lawsuit.
Dale denied an earlier motion by the Trump administration to dismiss the lawsuit on a technical basis in May. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, he lacked legal authority to resume consultation with the US Forest Service regarding bear bait under the Endangered Species Act as only the Forest Service had such authority.
Dale said the argument was unfounded, citing a precedent.