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Grizzly Bears: Professors Tuholske, Pease Help Restore Protected Status for Top Predator

November 30, 2011

Vermont Law School professors Jack Tuholske and Craig Pease played a major role in a federal appellate court's recent decision to restore Endangered Species Act protection for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region.

Image of grizzlyThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that grizzlies and their habitat in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have recovered enough to be placed under state management. But the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 22 struck down federal wildlife managers' 2007 decision to remove the bears from the endangered species list.

The court said the federal agency had not fully considered the decline of whitebark pines, whose seeds are a major food source for grizzlies. The court cited climate change's role in the destruction of whitebark pine forests.

Tuholske handled the case successfully in U.S. District Court, while Earthjustice handled the case before the appellate court. Pease consulted extensively with Tuholske and was one of the scientists relied upon to help restore the grizzlies' federal protection.

Image of Jack Tuholske

Professor Jack Tuholske

"Grizzly bears face a potentially tragic future because their habitat is one of the first to feel the effects of climate disruption," Tuholske said. "This decision provides continued protection for these bears and sets the bar high for the government in terms of scientific integrity in the face of impacts from climate change."

Grizzly bears, one of the American West's most iconic wild animals, have tripled in population to about 600 under federal protection in the greater Yellowstone region over the last 35 years. The court's ruling makes them only the second wildlife species, after the polar bear, to earn protection from harm caused by global warming.

Tuholske, who specializes in public interest environmental litigation throughout the West, has been involved in seminal decisions in environmental, land use, and constitutional law.

Image of Craig Pease

Professor Craig Pease

Pease, a research scientist, has expertise in demographic and population models, particularly of plants, songbirds, and bears. He is a leading expert on the Yellowstone grizzlies.

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