A grizzly bear in Northwest Wyoming near Grand Teton National Park. (National Park Service/C.J. Adams)

A Wyoming official testified this week that he supported using “whatever means is necessary” to obtain management authority over the Yellowstone area’s federally protected grizzly bears. 

Brian Nesvik, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, made the remark while speaking in support of U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman’s H.R. 1245 – Grizzly bear state management act of 2023. The measure would require federal wildlife managers to reinstate a five-year-old grizzly bear delisting decision that was overturned in court — and it would prohibit future legal challenges.

“The best way to celebrate the success [of grizzly recovery] is to delist and return management to the states and the tribes where it belongs  — and to do so by whatever means is necessary,” Nesvik told a House Committee on Natural Resources’ subcommittee. “The bill you are considering today would certainly achieve the conservation outcome we feel is best for the management of grizzly bears and the people of our state.” 

Earlier, Hageman charged that delisting the 1,000-plus grizzlies that dwell in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is warranted under the Endangered Species Act, and that it wasn’t fair to make the states go through a third delisting effort. The first two attempts, in 2007 and 2017, were successful before being overturned in federal court. 

“Meanwhile, environmental litigants have been holding farmers, ranchers and the government hostage to their demands and for the purpose of protecting their own pocketbooks,” Hageman said. “Wyoming is done waiting on the federal government when the science has said for a long time that it’s time to act.” 

Simultaneous to pursuing legislation that would go around the ESA, the state successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider grizzly delisting through its usual avenues. The state’s pitch was received favorably, and the agency is in the process of completing a “comprehensive status review,” which would precede a proposed and final delisting rule — a process that could take years to unfold. 

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman at a 2022 rally for her candidacy attended by Donald Trump, Jr. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

Western lawmakers pressed two other bills at the Thursday hearing that would circumvent the Endangered Species Act. 

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) touted H.R. 764 – Trust the science act, which would reinstate federal wildlife officials’ 2020 decision to delist gray wolves throughout the Lower 48. Currently wolves are only delisted and managed by the states in the Northern Rockies, where Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have authority and hold hunts. State jurisdiction might not last, however: Petitions that seek relisting Northern Rockies wolves were initially successful, and the states are awaiting the results of a comprehensive status review that will dictate what the Fish and Wildlife Service does next. 

The third effort to go around the ESA discussed in the committee comes from U.S. Rep. Matt Rosedale (R-Montana), whose bill, cosponsored by Hageman, would direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem’s 1,000-plus grizzly bears. 

Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin testified in opposition to the spate of bills that go around the ESA. The 50-year-old conservation law demands that decision-makers heed the best-available science, he noted.

“It’s not uncommon for the Service’s listing or delisting rules to be challenged in court,” Guertin said. “The judicial systems become part of the body of law interpreting the ESA, and the [Fish and Wildlife] Service adjusts its approach accordingly.” 

The ESA, which has kept 99% of listed species from going extinct, was broadly supported upon its inception in 1973. Wyoming’s congressional delegation all supported it: U.S. Sen. Clifford Hansen, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Gale McGee and U.S. Rep. Teno Roncalio, both Democrats. 

Nowadays, the ESA is frequently under attack, especially by members of the Republican Party. The federal budget bill contained a rider in 2011 that returned Montana and Idaho wolves to state management. Congress has also included provisions in spending bills that prohibit spending money on listing the greater sage grouse, a struggling species whose stronghold is Wyoming. 

Tim Preso, a managing attorney for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, told WyoFile he finds attempts by Congress to legislate around the ESA “troublesome.” 

“With these delisting actions, the history has been — it’s not just based on speculation — that the states don’t step in to be guardians,” Preso said. “They’ve stepped in to ramp up the persecution [of formerly protected species] and that’s why the Endangered Species Act is so important for species like these.” 

Wyoming’s petition, if successful, would likely use hunting to reduce the population of Yellowstone-region grizzly bears from 1,069 to 932. 

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik testifies before the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission at a January 2023 meeting. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

Chris Servheen, a former Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator, testified on Thursday that he was the leading proponent of grizzly delisting during the first attempt. Since then, he changed his tune as a result of state legislatures passing bills that promote “aggressive, indiscriminate wildlife killing methods into grizzly bear habitat.” 

“The lack of adequate regulatory mechanisms [protecting grizzlies and wolves] is due to political interference in the management of wildlife,” Servheen said. 

Wyoming Game and Fish’s director took issue with Servheen’s assessment.  

“I would certainly disagree,” Nesvik testified. “We have gone to great lengths to ensure that we have laws and regulations on the books that very conservatively manage grizzly bears within the core of their suitable habitat.” 

Mike Koshmrl reports on Wyoming's wildlife and natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures for the Jackson...

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  1. @ Kathy McConnell *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

    The real problem will be when the Grizzly, meets an elementary student. Last I checked, Kelly Elementary school does not have a fence. They have a real school bell. When wildlife that could pose a danger to students appears near school grounds someone rings the bell and the students return to the safety of the school building. When a grizzly kills a child, I wonder how this conversation changes. The federal courts and the state courts have become politicized on the issue of apex predators. I think people will find this issue much more difficult when bears come out of hibernation to find a large decline in wildlife due to the winter kill off in Wyoming. Glenn Graham’s trust in the bureaucratic rules and terms in delisting might be upset when it becomes bears versus children. There is no doubt the bears have recovering populations both inside and outside of the park. The bears themselves might redefine the terms of delisting through a tragic event.

  2. The reason the federal court keeps stepping in to relist the bears after the state delists them is because the state hasn’t met the criteria to delist the bears. Federal courts are upholding the terms of the delisting. The states need to recover the population. Not by-pass the rules for their political and emotional reasons.

  3. Classify ranchers as predators, and enact a one thousand dollar bounty for each set of ears turned in to Game and Fish. It’ll be a good exercise for G&F employees who generally sympathize with ranchers, who are the REAL ecosystem destroyers. No one will miss ’em.

    1. what kind of statement is this ?
      you advocating killing people to justify your warped sense of reality ?

      typical punk i don’t like this group of people so lets send out a hunting party to eradicate them.

      p.s.disapointed in the moderator of this story letting such crap pass the standard.
      it his is not the first time,either.

  4. These are the same people that say they believe in the lessons of the Bible and let prayer guide their actions.

    In their houses of worship they have been taught that they should be “fruitful and multiply” because God gave Man Dominion; it says so in verse 28 of Genesis Chapter 1. What all their preachers fail to teach, is that God implores tman to ensure that all species be fruitful and multiply in the verses prior to the only one they know. It is pretty evident that man is multiplying and not bearing fruit but because of Hageman and those that voted for her have been duped by their faith leaders to help destroy the last remnants of the Garden of Eden surviving in the USA.

    When one looks at Veronica Clark’s facts; the obvious answer is to connect Yellowstone’s Eden to increase the viability of all of the species that are slowly dying away across the world along with the lifestyle they say they want to save.

    The Bible clearly points out the disadvantage the rest of God’s creation has against man’s dominance in Genesis 1. Then Genesis 4 emphasizes this disadvantage again when God picks Abel’s gift over Cain’s. God prefers the gifts of Abel because he is a tender of the Garden God created.called Eden. Cain’s arrogance, that God condemned, was growing what he “thought” God would be proud of instead of Abel’s choice. Cain chose to usurp God’s will by controlling the outcome instead of having Faith that God will provide. The narrative that God saw into Cain’s heart was a lie that their faith leaders tell them to make them feel better about destroying everything God created because they can.

    We need to get rid of this mystic ideology by any means necessary or we will not have anything left.

  5. Federal & State authorities “kill” or for those that are offended by that word “euthanize” 30-40 Grizzlies each year. They remove some teeth, claws, maybe their hide from the carcass and then their bodies are disposed of in a landfill. What difference does it make who does the killing, authoirities or hunters? The result is the same. Maybe its really not about the Grizzlies?

  6. Yellowstone Park is a world wide destination site. Google that once, Yellowstone is right in the mix. I just returned from there today. I could write a whole thesis on the Park but I will say don’t murder the critters that hang on there just for some political points and please some whiney donors.

    1. Rock: The grizzly bears in the park and adjacent wilderness areas are protected by designation of core habitat within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem while they are listed as T&E – and even after delisting, the emphasis will be on removal of bears that have out migrated onto BLM land and private land. The adopted recovery plans clearly state that BLM and private lands are NOT suitable habitat. One exception to protection of bears within their core habitat is problem bears that have become humanized or exhibit dangerous intentions – they need to be live trapped and relocated or euthanized. The current situation in the greater YES is that grizzly recovery has been wildly successful to such an extent they are out migrating into previously unoccupied habitat such as the Wind River range. In Wyoming, grizzly recovery has been so successful that its time to celebrate their recovery, delist and move on to another deserving species deserving of protection under the ESA. We can now count the great bears recovered along with bald eagles, black footed ferrets, wolves, and yellowstone cutthroat trout. Wyoming Game and Fish has been instrumental in the recovery of these species. So no, the great bears are not imperiled within their core habitat its outside of their core habitat where the current problems occur.

      1. 1000 grizzlies left living now is NOT what could be considered “recovered” in the wildest imagination. Conservationists should oversee the wildlife on federal/state lands, not those in thrall to moneyed interests NOR the BLM who care for nothing except what ranchers want, especially 5he eradication of wild horses so they can freely graze their cattle on federal land.

  7. How is under 1000 grizzly bears, in the Yellowstone region, a viable number given the aggressive and unwarranted manner in which they will be hunted. They are not mice that can reproduce several litters in a year. These animals, like wolves and other apex predators will be hunted to extinction again for ranchers. Fish and wildlife services cannot be trusted with their care. They have already proved this with their hunting down of wolves.

    1. First of all, those nasty farmers and ranchers are the reason you can buy meat, milk, and other foods at the store instead of producing it your self. It is very hard for me to understand forcing someone else to deal with a dangerous animal you wouldn’t want in your own yard.

      1. Wyoming ag is overrated and over-publicized by local media. ALL Wyoming ag (that produces about 1.5 percent of the sugar and the same percentage of beef) could disappear overnight and no one would even know they were gone…except the wildlife, once the habitat reaches its pre-ag condition. Propaganda from various ag associations and their true believers is pure hokum, not to be trusted for factual information.

      2. 1st of all you don’t know what you are talking about. If Montana and Wyomings feeble production ceased to exist it would not matter. They don’t produce enough to matter. Put the welfare ranches out of business.

        1. You can’t reason with the willfully ignorant or the perpetually uninformed. There is an idolization of welfare ranchers that make no sense.

      3. You can solve that by fencing the land you OWN and leave the land owned by all Citizens free for wildlife.

  8. Would hope that the proposal if enacted includes all grizzlies in the lower 48. State fish and game agencies are well equipped to manage this recovered species. Earthjustice, DOW, CBD and other protectionist organizations contribute next to nothing in support of the nations wildlife populations. Their only interest is to continue legal efforts prohibiting the management of predator populations . Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been paid to these groups under the Equal Access to Justice Act in legal fees.

    1. The outfits that keep suing to keep species listed even after the management goals have been met are more about the government money they receive than then animals.
      I can’t help but wonder when the family of someone who has been killed by a bear finally brings a successful lawsuit.
      Bears and wolves ARE NOT RARE, Alaska and Canada are full of them. The people who live there aren’t fond of them. They seriously affect moose and caribou populations.
      I know of many hunters who have quit hunting in wolf and bear areas, partly because of added Forest Service rules and also because of reduced game populations.

      1. Good. Exactly why should the US provide these “hunters” with game? If private landowners want to allow them on their lands so be it.

  9. Considering how Wyoming and other western states have mismanaged wolves, odds are it will never happen. Also, don’t be surprised when Wyoming wolves are put under federal control again.

  10. Bear attacks used to be rare. Now they seem to happen on a monthly basis during summer and fall. Grizzly are everywhere now. There is no more bear habitat that isn’t already filled. If this doesn’t fit the definition of “fully recovered” I’m not sure anything will. If Grizzly advocates feel we need more bears, I’d suggest they look to other states that traditionally held bears in abundance, yet currently have vast amounts of unfilled habitat. California, Oregon and Colorado would surely be possibilities and are home to thousands of bear advocates.

  11. We need to keep wolves and bears protected. My God all these people do is kill kill kill.
    We need apex predators to maintain wild life.
    What we don’t need is is killers killing everything in site. They are killing mother bears and babies in dens that are hibernating that’s wrong.
    We want this killing to stop and let nature take care of itself.
    The wild horse and burros are all but gone, the wolves, the bears, the Buffalo.

    1. “Sustainable harvest” what are they? Wheat fields?. There is no such thing as a “sustainable harvest” of wildlife. It is a political term to hide the slaughter of creatures getting in the way of human greed. Wildlife has been “managed” for years for hunters with disastrous results. If wildlife managed itself it would balance itself out based on available resources but humans have decided they want to artificially inflate numbers of elk and deer for hunters and look at the disastrous results. Elk and deer are not being encouraged to follow centuries old migration patterns being kept in Northern States such as Wyoming by feeding them. Lack of apex predators has led to genetically weak and ill elk and deer reproducing even more genetically unfit elk and deer with a consequential fall in their numbers which has nothing to do with apex predator numbers. We now have Chronic Wasting Disease spread across most of the country thanks to such practices by State Fish and Wildlife departments responding to blood lust clamoring in Northern Sates. Then you have the systematic destruction of public lands for northern cattle ranches, many owned by corporations, who want to put their cattle on public lands for $1.35/month so they can make even more obscene profits by selling them abroad.Have you taken a look at grocery store shelves recently? Or gas and diesel prices? It has nothing to do with COVID and everything to do with corporate greed who have reported record profits. And who pays for this? I do. As does Every citizen who pays taxes. You all tout how beautiful your States are and want the tourist money from people like me who don’t live in Wyoming, but what do you think you are going to attract us with when we have little to no chance of seeing your State as it should be because of your “sustainable harvests”?. In the meantime, the beautiful wildlife in my State are being decimated by CWD. It’s about time you opened your eyes and accepted real scientific facts and stopped spouting political myths. Oh, and before you start spouting that I should come and live with wolves and grizzlies I’d love to be able to see some in my home. Then I wouldn’t have to travel thousands of miles in the hopes of seeing just one of them in their native habitat and not in a zoo which will be all that’s left if you have your way,

      1. We need to have neighboring states enjoy grizzlies and wolves like Wyoming .South and North Dakota ,Colorado even California would be good places to relocate them.You would be shocked if you new the amount of bears that are killed buy the US Fish and Wildlife each year in Wyoming.

      2. Well done.. And I live in Wyoming. Lets just trust the science and the wildlife managers. Corporate ranchers will still survive. As stated the wolf management is a sham, we don’t need another one.

  12. Without the Endangered Species Act, all those nuts with too many guns and not enough brains will kill off all the bear and wolf populations. And then what…

  13. almost sounds like every time the brown bear is removed from federal protection,
    & returned to state management,
    the federal court steps in & blocks the process from moving forward.

  14. Truth of the matter is that grizzly bears haven’t been managed by adopted management plans and best available science – they have been manged by ” Federal Court shopping ” whereby grizzly bear advocates file legal challenges in carefully selected Federal courts they can generally expect favorable rulings and ultimately proceed to the 9Th Circuit Court of Appeals in California if necessary. These legal filings in front of selected Federal judges are not expected to end in the foreseeable future and could ultimately result in 4th and 5th attempts to delist the great bear. This process has gone on too long now – the current attempt to address delisting by Congress is predictable and welcomed by many frustrated advocates of delisting – not the least of which is Wyoming Game and Fish which has expended something like $65 million on grizzly bear management with disappointment after disappointment and no reimbursement of expenditures.

    Grizzly bear advocates have generally committed limited funding towards on the ground bear management, spending their money on legal fees and promoting bear reintroduction as a mechanism to increase their membership and funding. Not to mention the hundreds of researchers who have made a living off of the bear issue. Its a nice lucrative arrangement for them since most of the direct costs in Wyoming are paid by funds derived from license sales to hunters and anglers not by the public or advocates.

    Contrast this financial burden on Wyoming Game and Fish with the wild horse management programs wherein public funds are expended primarily by the BLM to include almost $70 million per year for out placing wild horses on privately owned range. The basic concept is that the American people strongly support the wild horse program and are willing to fund the BLM’s efforts. They also strongly support grizzly bear reintroduction – however the ESA is structured to place the financial burden on the States – not the general public. Wyoming’s patience has run out and the State is resorting to a congressional delisting solution since the Federal Court venue has been so highly manipulative.

    This is exactly why the voters of Wyoming sent Harriet Hagemann to Congress. The misuse of the ESA and the Federal Courts must come to an end – even if it takes Congressional intervention.

    1. Her main platform was electron fraud. Which was smart ,now maybe she can get something done.

    2. Lee, thank you for putting that so well. I could not have said it better. I don’t want to get rid of the ESA, I want to get rid of the abuse of it. Just imagine how much more wildlife and habitat we would have to argue over if these litigious groups spent their money on the ground instead of lawyers.

    3. No. The majority of citizens do NOT support the BLM and it’s fake AMLs and selling out of our wild horses and burros and the poor management of our public lands. Most of them Do Not Know of the atrocities being committed so corporate ranching and oil and gas corporations can rob them blind and rape their lands. They do not know of the fake charities such as HSUS who are making money off the peddling of disgusting birth control agents that will eventually sterilize the horses permanently (Try looking at the Assateague horses 6 years post PZP). Nor do the majority know that their taxes are funding obscene corporate profits because these ranching corporations only pay $1.35/month for a 1000lb cow and growing calf (or 5 sheep) to eat and destroy the public lands while horses and burros are driven off the lands and kept in private company warehouses at another huge cost to the taxpayer. If they did there would be a far greater outcry than is current.

      1. Ms. Veronica Clarke,
        How many “checkbook Environmentalists”, people who only conserve with donations to environmental law firms, realize their donations pay for lavish accommodations and private jets? They are being played because the law firms are reimbursed under the “Equal Access Act” for their legal expenses, leaving all of those donations as pure profit! Wow! That must sting, huh? Many laws are perverted and abused for special interest gain. That is precisely why Wyoming has had enough of the obstructionist lawsuits. No more venue-shopping. Keep it totally in the affected state(s). Does anyone know any good recipes for grizzly meat? Thank you.

        1. Wyoming is politically irrelevant and this will never pass Congress. The Republicans have a slim majority and with l likely lose the house next time. And if it passed which is unlikely Biden would veto it out of exist and the right wingers don’t have the numbers to over ride a veto. The Grizzlies and American people will continue to win.

          1. Yes! They will win. The sane public has no appetite for more death of wildlife on public lands, just for doing what they do – MIGRATING on their historic lands. And for the Director of FWS in WY or any other state to say they will work with the American Tribes – that is lie. Native American Tribes want the preservations of Grizzlies, Wolves and Bison. They are sacred. They should have oversight and management of their historic lands and kick the ranchers out!
            Whoever else was stating there are so many wolves and bears in Canada and Alaska – well good for them. It’s time for a Western state management of Apex predators to grow and sustain them. There is room for them in Colorado and I’m excited to see wolf reintroduction in Co. Our ecosystems thrive when wildlife is left alone.