Settlement Agreement Requires Grizzly Bear Status Review
The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana has approved a partial settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) requiring that the Service complete and post a status review of the lower-48 grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) populations no later than March 31, 2021. Earlier this year, CBD filed a lawsuit challenging the Service’s alleged failure to update a 1993 federal recovery plan for the species. The partial settlement disposes of CBD’s first claim for relief, which alleged that the Service had failed to conduct a five-year status review of grizzly bear populations in the lower-48 states pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Grizzly bears in the lower-48 states were listed as threatened under the ESA in 1975. A 2011 status review concluded that the existing 1993 recovery plan for the species no longer reflected the best available science and needed to be updated to consider additional recovery areas, but such action had not been taken, prompting CBD to bring its lawsuit. As part of that lawsuit, CBD claimed that the Service failed to comply with the ESA’s requirement to prepare a status review for listed species once every five years because one had not been prepared since 2011.
The court will still need to resolve CBD’s remaining claims, including whether the Service is required to prepare an updated recovery plan that reflects current science and whether the Service must consider additional potential grizzly bear habitat as part of that plan.