Thursday, August 30th, was an intense day for grizzly advocates and opponents of the pending trophy hunt in Wyoming and Idaho. Crowds gathered outside of the federal courthouse in Missoula, Montana, anticipating Judge Dana Christensen’s decision.
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates’ Board President and Founder Kent Nelson was in attendance for the hearing. “When I arrived at 8am sharp, there was already a line outside waiting for the courthouse to open, as well as a group of demonstrators holding banners and placards. The mood outside while waiting to enter through courthouse security was upbeat, with many well known grizzly advocates in attendance,” describes Nelson.
“Reflecting the fierce opposition that the tribal nations have towards grizzly delisting and hunting, there were many tribal members were in the crowd. The crowd was large enough that a second courtroom was equipped with a video feed for the overflow from Judge Christensen’s courtroom.”
“The mood once the hearing started was intense, and it was clear that the Judge was well prepared and had carefully studied the record. He asked many well-considered questions of the attorneys for both sides. Since this hearing involves six separate lawsuits that have been joined together, there were a lot of attorneys in the courtroom! The hearing started with a let-down as the the Judge told the packed courtroom that he was not prepared to make a bench ruling during the hearing, saying that he wanted to fully consider the oral arguments made by the opposing parties.”
Hunt opponents were determined to keep the grizzlies safe in the interim: “After the hearing, attorneys for several of the plaintiffs filed requests for a restraining order that would prevent the Idaho and Wyoming hunts from beginning on September 1st,” recalls Nelson.
The uncertainty left grizzly advocates feeling nervous, as the hunt was slated to begin 30 minutes before sunrise on the following Saturday.
Around 5 p.m. on the evening of the 30th, Judge Christensen made a surprising and exciting decision; he issued a temporary block to the grizzly hunt in order to have sufficient time to make a decision. “The threat of death to individual bears posed by the scheduled hunts is sufficient” to justify a delay in the state’s hunting seasons, Christensen wrote. (Read the order here.)
This is unequivocally great news for GYE grizzlies. The first hunter could have killed a trophy bear as early as Saturday morning. At least until Friday, September 14th, no bears will be hunted.
Their fate beyond that is unclear. While this most recent development is absolutely cause for celebration and hope, there is work yet to do. There’s no doubt that the passion and effort of WWA’s supporters contributed to this achievement. It is a powerful reminder that our voices do have an impact.
We will work diligently to keep you updated with further developments.
In the meantime, we hope you’ll take a moment and make a contribution to our organization. Your support allows us to keep up the fight. And more than ever, the grizzlies need us.