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Judge restores protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears

September 21, 2009 |  1:24 pm

Yellowstone-grizzly-jfbep6nc

Two years after federal officials announced their "amazing" recovery, grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park have been given renewed federal protections by a federal judge who expressed concern that climate change, among other factors, could impair the bears' hopes for survival.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in a 54-page order (Download Order) restored the Endangered Species Act listing for more than 500 bears in and around the park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho after a coalition of environmental groups argued it was premature to declare the bears "recovered" in 2007.

The judge said the monitoring program designed to maintain the bear population at more than 500 bears has no enforcement mechanism in case numbers decline.

"Even if the monitoring were enforceable, the monitoring itself does nothing to protect the grizzly bear population," the judge wrote. "Instead, there is only a promise of future, unenforceable actions. Promises of future, speculative action are not existing regulatory mechanisms," he said.

The judge said federal officials also failed to consider the impacts of global warming and other factors on a primary food source for the grizzlies, whitepark pine nuts, an important food source for the bears.

Federal officials said they were studying the ruling and would decide later how to proceed. Read the full story later.

-- Kim Murphy

Photo: James Peaco / Associated Press

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