Grizzly bear in GTNP. Photo: Buckrail // Nick Sulzer

WYOMING – No stranger to flaunting state control over federal oversight, Wyoming lawmakers passed legislation that would by all intent allow a grizzly bear hunting season even as the animal is under federal protection.

It remains to be seen whether Senate File 93 would actually authorize the state to hold a griz hunting season this fall while the bear remains on the Endangered Species list. But the legislation was passed and later signed by Governor Mark Gordon on February 15. It today was assigned for addition to state statute Chapter 27.

Meanwhile environmental groups have filed notice they intend to sue over the new Wyoming law. The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Western Watersheds Project sent the notice Wednesday to Wyoming officials including the director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Wyoming and Idaho were preparing to hold grizzly bear hunts in 2018 when a federal judge in Montana ruled the bears needed re-listing as a threatened species.

Whether the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is planning a grizzly bear hunt this year remains unclear. The bill does site 10th amendment protections and allowances for states to govern themselves. It also ascertains that a US District Court order to relist the griz “hinders the state of Wyoming’s ability to work with the United States secretary of the Interior to cooperate in the management of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and thus threatens the safety of Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state.”

“It’s outrageous that Wyoming would blatantly ignore federal law to satisfy its thirst to kill grizzly bears,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center of Biological Diversity’s endangered species director. “Moves like this show that the state is far from ready to manage grizzlies.”

The standoff appears headed to the courts before it ever gets into the field. Wyoming wildlife managers contend that some 700 grizzlies in the population is evidence of a full recovery of the species.

“If the game and fish commission determines under the laws of the state of Wyoming that a grizzly bear hunt would be beneficial for managing Wyoming’s wildlife and for protecting Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state, the game and fish commission may conduct a grizzly bear hunt and shall issue licenses as provided in [state statute],” the bill states.