Nine wildlife preservation groups, including the Gallatin Wildlife Association, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for its 2021 decision to expand grazing land into grizzly bear habitats.
The decision allowed for six more allotments of grazing land within Paradise Valley for cattle to graze. Wildlife preservation groups are concerned for safety the of grizzly bears with these allotments.
“Why should we relocate species for cattle,” said Gallatin Wildlife Association President Clinton Nagel. “Cattle can be lots of places. They don't necessarily have to be in primary wildlife habitat.”
Nagel also touched on the fact that 122 grizzlies have been killed in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem over the last 18 years. These numbers may increase with the expansion of grazing land.
“As we intrude upon their natural habitat, you're going to have greater and greater likelihood of these kinds of conflicts,” Nagel said. "Allowing grazing in their habitat is just one more source of conflict.”
Montana Stock Growers have a different point of view on the expansion of grazing land and believe that it won't affect the grizzlies' habitat.
“Repercussions because grazing is on the landscape, is something that we don't believe is a viable argument,” said Montana Stock Growers Interim Vice President Raylee Honeycutt.
Honeycutt believes that the expansion of grazing land is not harming the grizzly bears within Paradise Valley. She says the population of grizzlies is not endangered within the ecosystem, and that these allotments are necessary because there is not a lot of grazing area left for cattle within the Valley.
“It's important and we want folks to know that cattle are bringing benefits to public lands and not a detriment as many people are trying to argue,” says Honeycutt.
In addition to challenging the Forest Service’s decision, the suit also names the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a defendant for using out-of-date scientific information and failing to adequately consider the impacts of the grazing decision on grizzly bears.