We have a huge cheer for U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Montana who on Thursday issued a court order temporarily blocking the first trophy hunts of Yellowstone-area grizzly bears in more than 40 years, siding with native American groups and environmentalists seeking to restore the animals’ protected status.
Reuters reports that the 14-day restraining order by Christensen in Missoula, Montana, came two days before Wyoming and Idaho were scheduled to open licensed grizzly hunts allowing as many as 23 bears in the two states to be shot and killed for sport.
Groups opposing the hunts had sought a restraining order while waiting for the judge to rule on the larger question of whether the federal government should return Endangered Species Act safeguards to grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone region. Christensen did not indicate when he would render that decision, according to Reuters.
The de-listing policy last year applied to about 700 Yellowstone-area grizzlies in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Environmentalists argue that treating those bears separately from other grizzly populations in Montana and elsewhere was biologically unsound and illegal under the Endangered Species Act.