Federal judge in Missoula speeds up grizzly lawsuit ahead of fall hunting seasons

Grizzly bear

A grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in 2011 in Yellowstone National Park. A proposal introduced in the Wyoming Legislature seeks to impose a wildlife conservation fee at Yellowstone.

A federal district judge derailed a docket full of legal preliminaries about removing the grizzly bear from Endangered Species Act protection on Tuesday, in hopes of getting the whole matter decided before Wyoming and Idaho open grizzly hunting seasons this fall.

“I don’t think we always make our best decisions, our best briefs or our best arguments in the context of emergency injunctive relief motions,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said in Missoula. “It’s not efficient to deal with issues of this importance in the context of restraining orders.”

In a ruling from the bench, Christensen denied the federal government’s request to delay proceedings in six lawsuits challenging the delisting of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He also rejected requests by three different groups to decide the case based on technicalities. And he ordered all parties to put their sprawling arguments into a single set of briefs for a hearing in August.

Tuesday’s hearing brought together federal lawyers representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service against the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Humane Society of the U.S., Wild Earth Guardians and an independent attorney from Chicago. On the sidelines, lawyers from Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation also sought intervener status in the case.

FWS delisted the roughly 700 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park on July 31, 2017, while leaving protections in place in five other grizzly recovery zones. The next day, a Washington, D.C. appeals court overturned the delisting of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region. That case warned FWS that it couldn’t remove Endangered Species Act protections from one distinct population segment without showing how the decision would affect other protected wolf populations.

Four months later, FWS officials published a request in the Federal Register asking for public comment on whether the Great Lakes wolf decision might affect Greater Yellowstone grizzly delisting. Christensen found that confounding.

“How is this public comment period somehow going to shed any light or give any assistance at all with the issues in this lawsuit?” Christensen asked U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Coby Howell. “When we’re talking about the application of a circuit court opinion, that’s a decision I’m going to have to make. How is public comment going to help me out?”

Howell replied that FWS needed until at least April 30 to analyze the comments and then either add more findings to the existing delisting rule or start the process of withdrawing it. Doing so would ensure the court had a fully prepared agency rule to consider, he said.

But the government’s opponents pounced all over that idea. Earthjustice attorney Katherine O’Brien called the delay request an opportunity “to cook up justifications to prop up a decision they’ve already made.”

“Meanwhile, Wyoming will be turning 24 grizzly bears into rugs and wall hangings,” O’Brien said. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department has proposed allowing hunters to kill up to 24 grizzlies starting in some areas on Sept. 1. Idaho’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has proposed a fall hunting season for one bear. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials decided not to hold a 2018 grizzly hunt.

Additionally, the grizzly management rules in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming allow much more leeway for farmers and ranchers to kill grizzlies threatening their livestock than the ESA permitted. That means grizzlies and their advocates could suffer harm every day that the court delays a final decision on whether to put the bears back under ESA protection.

Christensen said he was not pre-judging the case when pointing out that both sides acknowledged the reduced protections grizzlies had under state management. Given that and the lack of justification for the FWS public comment review, he denied the government’s request for a delay. But then he went further.

“There’s only one of me and an army of you,” Christensen said to the roomful of attorneys. Pushing the deadlines closer to a potential hunting season would invite last-minute requests for restraining orders and injunctions.

“I’ll do anything I can to avoid that,” Christensen said. “You’d be writing briefs when you’d rather be with your kids at the end of August. And I’d be getting out emergency orders, opposed to logically and methodically proceeding with the case. I want to proceed in a manner we all agree with, leading to a hearing and ultimately a decision.”


US Senate Quietly Passes Alaska Oil-Drilling Bill


  • The 19.6-million acre refuge is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife

    The 19.6-million acre refuge is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife | Photo: Reuters FILE

“It’s outrageous that the oil lobby and their allies in Congress are trying to destroy the crown jewel of America’s wildlife refuge system.”

Late Saturday the United States Senate passed a Bill that will allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) – an area which has been protected since 1960.

Arctic Nations Meet in Alaska Under Climate Change Concern

Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski, managed to get a narrow 52-48 vote for the Bill – a part of the tax reform legislation – to pass.

The 19.6-million acre refuge is located in northeastern Alaska and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife, but also billions of barrels of crude oil underground.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will authorize the sale of oil and gas leases in a section of the ANWR on Alaska’s coastal plain that faces the Arctic Ocean.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, expressed displeasure with the passing of the bill, stating that “sacrificing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has absolutely no place in a tax bill” adding it was “outrageous that some politicians will do anything to sneak this sell-out past the American people”.

“It’s outrageous that the oil lobby and their allies in Congress are trying to destroy the crown jewel of America’s wildlife refuge system after nearly four decades of bipartisan support for protecting it,” Williams continued.

“Fortunately, this fight isn’t over, and we are committed to fighting this legislation every step of the way.

But, the resources committee head held an opposing perspective regarding the area.

“This small package offers a tremendous opportunity for Alaska, for the Gulf Coast, and for all of our nation,” Murkowski said, according to The Washington Examiner.

“We have authorized responsible energy development in the 1002 area.”

One committee member, Senator Maria Cantwell, told The Washington Examiner before the vote: “We don’t think this has been a fair and open process. The only way they have been able to get any place on this issue is to throw away the regular process.”

Tell the Senate to Protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!  

Stop a Budget that Supports Drilling in the Refuge!

Time is growing short to make your voice heard as Republicans are pushing aggressively to open the Refuge to full scale oil and gas development.

At stake is the fate of the Porcupine Caribou herd, grizzly and polar bears, hundreds of thousands of snow geese, muskox, wolves, snowy owls, whales. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains one of the wildest and most pristine areas in North America.

It truly remains America’s Serengeti!

Please call your Senators today and tell them:
DO NOT support a federal budget that allows drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

United States Capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121

The Roots of My Misanthropy

I am not a hate-filled person by nature, but I have what I consider a realistic view of Homo sapiens as a technologically over-evolved—yet morally under-evolved—ape that supersedes any blind allegiance to the species I might otherwise ascribe to. My disdain for humanity—hereby referred to as my misanthropy—knows no borders, boundaries, colors or cultures, aside perhaps from the emerging culture of do-no-harm veganism.

I’m not so enamored by the modest achievements and advancements we hear so much about that I don’t clearly see that mankind’s ultimate claim to fame is the “undoing” of the most incredible and diverse epoch in the history of life on earth.

My misanthropy is not aimed at individuals per se, but at an entire misguided species of animal with an arrogance so all-consuming that it views itself as separate—and above—the rest of the animal kingdom.

It’s not like humans can’t afford a little resentment once in a while, there are entire religions built specifically on the worship of mankind and its father figure—the maker made in the image of man. But sometimes someone needs to step back and see this species in perspective…

Ever since hominids first climbed down out of the trees and started clubbing their fellow animals, humanoids have been on a mission to claim the planet as their own. No other species could ever live up to man’s over-inflated self-image; therefore they became meat. Or if not meat, a servant or slave in one way or another.  If their flesh isn’t considered tasty, they’re put to use as beasts of burden, held captive for amusement or as literal guinea pigs to test drugs and torturous procedures for the perpetual prolongation of human life. Those who don’t prove themselves useful are deemed “pests” and slated for eradication.

Because, for whatever rationale, the human species sees itself as the top dog—all others: the underlings. My misanthropy is not really about a hate of humanity. I just tend to root for the underdog.

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Massive asteroid nicknamed ‘The Rock’ to make closest pass to Earth in 400 years TOMORROW


An asteroid nicknamed “The Rock” after pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson, due to its massive size, is set to make it closest pass to Earth in 400 years this week.

The asteroid, which is travelling through space at about 33 meters per second (73 mph), is estimated to be between 650 meters and 1.4 kilometres in length.

It will make its closest approach to Earth in 400 years at 13:24 BST on April 19, at a distance of 1.1 million miles – or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

The asteroid will not come this close to Earth again for at least the next 500 years.

(Photo: Getty)

Astronomers first learned about “The Rock” (officially called 2014 JO25) three years ago, when it was observed by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.

Little is known about its physical properties, but NASA claims its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon, meaning it will be visible from Earth.

Although there is no possibility of the asteroid colliding with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.

Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size, or larger, in 13 years.

(Photo: Getty)

In September 2004, asteroid Toutatis, a 3.1-mile asteroid, approached within about four lunar distances.

The next known encounter of an asteroid of comparable size will occur in 2027 when the half-mile-wide asteroid 1999 AN10 will fly by at one lunar distance, (about 236,000 miles).

Robotic telescope service Slooh said the The Rock’s close approach was an “alarming reminder” of just how close these destructive chunks of space debris come to Earth on an almost daily basis.

“Even a 30­ metre sized asteroid can cause significant damage to a major city,” said Slooh.

(Photo: EyeEm)

“While not causing an extinction level event, an impact from an asteroid the size of ‘The Rock’ would have a calamitous effect at the local and even regional level.”

NASA has described the flyby as an “outstanding opportunity” for astronomers and amateur stargazers. The asteroid should be visible with a small optical telescope for one or two nights before it moves out of range.

It added: “Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible.”