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Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Servheen

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
665 F.3d 1015 (2011)


In 1975, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) (defendant) listed grizzly bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq. In 1982, the FWS developed a recovery plan for the grizzly bears in certain areas, including the Greater Yellowstone Area. The recovery plan included demographic and habitat-based recovery criteria. By 2000, the grizzly bears had expanded their range by 48 percent. In 2006, the FWS determined that the recovery plan’s criteria were being met, and developed a conservation strategy to guide the management and monitoring of Yellowstone grizzly bears (grizzlies) and their habitat. The finalized conservation strategy consisted of population and habitat standards based on the recovery plan’s criteria. The FWS issued a delisting rule for the grizzlies, designating the grizzlies as a distinct population segment due in part to their unique dependence on whitebark pine for food. The FWS concluded that climate-change-induced pine loss would not endanger the grizzlies because (1) the grizzlies likely had behavioral adaptations for food acquisition, and (2) a different grizzly-bear population had increased despite pine loss. The FWS relied heavily on adaptive management to justify its delisting decision. Adaptive management would consist of monitoring grizzlies for food availability and population decline, and recommending appropriate management responses or a relisting petition in the event of mortalities. Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Inc. (GYC) (plaintiff) challenged the FWS’s delisting decision. The district court ruled in favor of GYC, finding that the FWS had relied excessively on measures that were not legally binding. The FWS appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Tallman, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Thomas, J.)

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