Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Federal Judge Tells FWS To Think About Refusing Yellowstone Bison Endangered Status

A Federal Judge has Ordered the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to take another look at its Decision Not to include Yellowstone Bison under the Endangered Species Act.

The Ruling comes after Animal Advocacy Groups filed a Lawsuit, alleging that the Agency “continues to ignore scientific evidence that there are two separate and genetically distinct herds of bison — the Central Interior Herd and Northern Herd — in Yellowstone National Park,” one of the groups, the Western Watersheds Project, said in a statement.

The Watersheds Project and the Buffalo Field Campaign have Advocated since 2014 to have the Yellowstone Bison Herds declared Endangered or Threatened, arguing that the Two separate groups of Bison in the Park are Genetically distinct from one another, citing a Study from that year. They are attempting to Expand the Limit on Bison Population in the Park from 3,000 total, to 3,000 for each Herd.

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The FWS, citing a different Study, said that an Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA shows No difference between the Two Herds. Further, the Agency said the Two Conservation groups had Not accounted for the fact that the Two Herds do Intermingle, meaning it’s only a matter of time before they Assimilate.

“The current Interagency plan treats bison as a single herd, failing to provide safeguards to maintain both herds as distinct and isolated units,” the Watershed Project statement said. “The Central Interior Herd may already be too small to maintain its viability from a genetic standpoint.”

District of Columbia Judge, Randolph Moss, did Not take a side on the Endangered Species issue, but said that FWS had applied the Wrong Standard and needed to address an aspect of the Petition. He also said the Agency had not given a convincing Rationale for choosing one Study over another. “It remains unclear whether sufficient basis exists to proceed to the next stage of the ESA process, and in light of the substantial amount of work done to date, the Service should be able to answer that question promptly,” he wrote in a 33-page Memorandum, giving the Parties 90 days to Update him.

Bison routinely wander out of the Park during winter in search of Food, and are culled each year to prevent their encroaching into Livestock areas. About 900 of them are slated to be Slaughtered this winter, according to the Watersheds Project.

“FWS has continued to disregard credible, scientific evidence showing that the current management and slaughter of bison is putting the population at risk,” Jennifer Best, Director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program, said in the group’s Statement. “This ruling demands more accountability from FWS and paves the way for preventing wild bison from going extinct.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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