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Lawsuits, Hunting, and Bears - Oh My!

June 2020
Author: SCI

For decades Safari Club International (SCI) and the Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) have been involved with issues related to hunting and conserving bears across North America. Engaging in lawsuits, grassroots campaigns, and scientific research, few organizations have been more involved with bears and bear hunting than SCI and SCIF.

Bears have a tough time staying out of trouble with livestock and trashcans. They also have a hard time staying out of courtrooms. SCI has a team of attorneys dedicated to defending the right to hunt and protecting science-based, sustainable-use conservation in courts throughout the country. They have recently been involved with three different cases involving bears.

Louisiana black bears were listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1992. By 2016, recovery plan criteria were met and the bears were removed from the threatened species list. In 2018, multiple organizations challenged that decision. SCI was the only organization that defended the USFWS’s decision to delist the bears, and in 2020, a federal court dismissed the case based on SCI’s arguments. While it is unlikely that a hunt will be scheduled in the near future, delisting is an important first step to reopening a bear hunt in Louisiana once it becomes necessary to manage the population.

New Jersey has one of the densest black bear populations in North America with an estimated 3,500 bears roaming the state and sightings in all 21 counties. Prohibiting bear hunting was part of current Governor Phil Murphy’s campaign platform, and in 2018, he limited the hunt to the fullest extent of his authority by banning bear hunting on more than 700,000 acres of previously accessible public hunting grounds. SCI and its partners challenged the closure in New Jersey state court. That case is currently ongoing, but SCI has been involved in lawsuits related to bear hunting in New Jersey for over 15 years.

Grizzly bears were listed as threatened in the lower 48 states in 1975 due to low population numbers and reduced range. However, grizzly bear populations have recovered in recent decades with established and expanding populations in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. SCI has been involved in lawsuits defending the USFWS’s attempts to delist the grizzly bears for over a decade and has argued in favor of hunting as a valuable tool for managing
grizzly populations.

SCI is currently involved in bear-related lawsuits in Alaska and Idaho as well. The organization has invested heavily in defending bear hunting and the science supporting it. SCIF has helped develop that science, having funded several research projects on both brown and black bears throughout North America in recent years. SCI also recently lead a grassroots campaign in support of authorizing a permanent spring bear hunting season in Ontario, and SCI’s Government Affairs team is currently monitoring several pieces of legislation related to bear management on both the state and federal level. SCI and SCIF will continue their effort to ensure hunting continues to be part of bear conservation programs.