RIVERTON, Wyo. — On a momentous day for Tribal Nations, Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), the House Republican Conference Chairwoman,
stated that the successful litigation by tribes and environmentalists to return the grizzly bear in Greater Yellowstone to the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
“was not based on science or facts” but motivated by plaintiffs “intent on destroying our Western way of life.”
One of the largest tribal-plaintiff alliances in recent memory prevailed in the landmark case, Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke last September,
when US District Judge Dana Christensen ruled in favor of the tribes and environmental groups after finding that the Trump Administration’s US Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS) had failed to abide by the ESA and exceeded its authority in attempting to remove federal protections from the grizzly.
Tuesday, USFWS officially returned federal protections to the grizzly.
Grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone
Removing protections from the bear, revered as sacred to a multitude of tribes, would have left the grizzly vulnerable to high-dollar trophy hunts
and lifted leasing restrictions on some 34,375 square miles.
Extractive industry, livestock and logging interests are among those desirous of capitalizing on the area, a region comprised of tribal treaty,
reserved rights and ceded lands.
“IF THIS WASN’T LIZ CHENEY AND THE ERA OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, YOU MIGHT BE RENDERED
SPEECHLESS BY THE INSENSITIVITY AND MENDACITY OF THE STATEMENT,” SAID TOM RODGERS,
A SENIOR ADVISER TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN TRIBAL LEADERS COUNCIL (RMTLC), WHO TESTIFIED AT
MAY’S CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON THE TRIBAL HERITAGE AND GRIZZLY BEAR PROTECTION ACT.
HR 2532, INTRODUCED BY HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN RAUL GRIJALVA,
WAS INSPIRED BY THE GRIZZLY TREATY SIGNED BY OVER 200 TRIBAL NATIONS.
“So, in striving to protect our culture, our religious and spiritual freedoms, our sovereignty and our treaty rights – all of which are encapsulated in the grizzly issue
– we are ‘destroying’ Cheney’s idea of the ‘Western way of life’?” questioned Rodgers. “
I would remind the Congresswoman that at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition an estimated 100,000 grizzly bears roamed from
the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast.
That was all Indian Country.
Now there are fewer than 2,000 grizzly bears and our people live in Third World conditions on meager reservations in the poorest counties in the US.
Does she really want to talk about ‘destroying’ a ‘way of life’?” asked Rodgers.
“Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that recent attempts by the Administration to remove protections for the grizzly, as well as blatant disregard for proper
Tribal consultation, warrant our attention,” commented Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO), who chaired the hearing on HR 2532.
Rodgers’ written response to a question by Rep. Neguse traces contemporary wildlife management practices employed by the USFWS
and the states back to the Doctrine of Discovery.
The account, which has been widely praised by organizations including Sierra Club and Earth Justice, is posted in the Congressional Record
“That response is vital for our people.
I urge everybody to read it.
We must be aware of where, why and how the status-quo came to be and understand that these actions consistently undermine tribal sovereignty and disenfranchise
our people,” said Lynnette Grey Bull, Senior Vice President of Global Indigenous Council, who also testified at the hearing.
Grey Bull resides on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, among Cheney’s constituents.
Both the Northern Arapaho Tribe and Eastern Shoshone Tribe passed official resolutions and issued numerous communications opposing the delisting
and trophy hunting of the grizzly bear.
The Northern Arapaho Business Council was compelled to issue a “Cease and Desist” letter to the Department of Interior
“regarding consistent misrepresentations of the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s position on grizzly delisting.”
Cheney contends that, “the ruling that forced today’s action was both needless and harmful to the ecosystem, which is why I introduced legislation earlier this year to
reinstate the original, science-based decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the grizzly and prevent future court action on the delisting,
returning management of the grizzly back to the state where it belongs.”