Federal Government Rejects Effort to Ban Bear Baiting on Federal Lands in Idaho and Wyoming

Published February 11, 2020

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have asked the U.S. District Court in Idaho to dismiss a lawsuit filed by several environmental groups demanding federal authorities ban black bear hunting using bait in national forests in Idaho and Wyoming to protect grizzly bears.

Claim: Baiting Hurts Grizzlies

Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, and Wilderness Watch filed a lawsuit in June claiming the FWS and the USFS are violating the 1973 Endangered Species Act, among other environmental laws, because black bear hunters using bait have killed some grizzly bears since 1995 in national forests.

The federal agencies filed documents with the court in November saying wildlife management decisions, including whether to allow bait to attract bears, should continue to be made by the states in which the national forests are located. The FWS and USFS also argue no evidence exists that hunting black bears using bait threatens the government’s grizzly bear recovery goals.

Idaho and Wyoming, which have restrictions in place limiting where bait can be used to hunt black bears, each filed briefs supporting the federal government’s position that states should continue to make wildlife management decisions.

Idaho prohibits hunting black bears using bait in areas inhabited by grizzlies, and Wyoming prohibits baiting in designated grizzly bear recovery areas. In addition, both states offer hunters help in distinguishing between black bears and grizzly bears.

Conservation Group Backs Feds

Wildlife management decisions are best made by local authorities in conjunction with scientists who best know the conditions on the ground, says Benjamin Cassidy, director of government affairs with Safari Club International (SCI), which intervened in the case with a brief supporting the federal government’s position.

“Effective wildlife management decisions are made by the scientists living in direct contact with the wildlife, not by emotionally driven animal rights activist groups,” Cassidy said. “SCI stands with the federal government in recognizing the primacy of the states’ management authority over their wildlife.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.