CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming has asked the federal government to remove grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park from protection under the Endangered Species Act, a request which if approved could allow the animals to be hunted. The bears' recovery from as few as 136 animals when they were first protected as a threatened species in 1975 to more than 1,000 today is a success story, the state argued in its petition Monday. The Yellowstone region spans Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Wyoming filed the petition with the formal support of Idaho and Montana officials.
Grizzlies in the area are "ready to join the ranks of the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican as receiving proper recognition as a thriving, recovered and stable species,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, said in a statement Tuesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to review the petition. From there, it can either deny the request or study it for up to a year before making a decision.
The federal government removed protections for the Yellowstone ecosystem's grizzlies in 2017. Wyoming and Idaho were set to allow grizzlies to be hunted when a judge restored those protections in 2018, siding with environmental groups that said delisting wasn't based on sound science. The Center for Biological Diversity, a group long involved in litigation over Yellowstone's grizzlies, called Wyoming's petition "outrageous." “There is no science to back the claim that grizzlies no longer need protection. Federal officials need to send a clear message by swiftly rejecting this request,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the group, said in a statement Tuesday. As many as 50,000 grizzlies once roamed over the western half of the U.S. but their numbers declined amid hunting and habitat loss following the arrival of European settlers. In December, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, petitioned federal officials to lift protections for a separate population of more than 1,000 grizzlies in and near Glacier National Park on the Canadian border. Wildlife advocates also have expressed concern about that request, saying it could lead to overhunting.
Only limited hunting would be allowed and could be shut down if too many bears were being killed, Montana officials said in their petition for the Glacier-area delisting.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo President Jonathan Nez has signed legislation to provide $557 million in hardship assistance to tribal members amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nez approved the bill late Tuesday to send $2,000 checks to adult tribal members and $600 for each child using federal virus relief funding. The Navajo Nation doesn't issue per capita payments to tribal members, which made the widespread financial assistance rare and highly anticipated.
Nez urged tribal members to use the money responsibly, including to help the elderly, students and veterans or pay outstanding bills.
“Remember, we're not out of this pandemic yet,'' Nez said Wednesday morning. “So don't go and spend all this money. Put some aside, the pandemic is still here. Plan.''
Later Wednesday, Navajo Nation health officials reported 168 new confirmed COVID-19 cases along with two more deaths. The numbers pushed the totals to 41,971 cases and 1,592 deaths on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah since the pandemic began.
The Navajo Nation Council voted to tap some of the $2.1 billion the tribe received from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed last year. The money will be sent automatically to tribal members who applied a year ago for relief funds under a previous round of hardship assistance.
An estimated 250,000 adults each will receive $2,000 payments, and the parents or guardians of 95,000 tribal members under the age of 18 will receive $600 for each child.
Nez previously approved $300 checks for tribal residents age 60 and older who showed they needed extra assistance under separate legislation. The tribe was up against a deadline to spend the $16 million it had from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act approved by former President Donald Trump, or have it revert to the federal government.
The Navajo Nation also used CARES Act funding to send the first round of hardship assistance payments.
Navajos clamored to enroll or fix their records to apply for the funding, boosting the tribe's rolls from about 306,000 members to nearly 400,000. That figure briefly put the Navajo Nation in the No. 1 spot for enrollment among all 574 federally recognized tribes before being topped again by the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
The tribe paid out about $360 million to 312,000 applicants, according to the tribal controller's office said. Adults received up to $1,350 and children up to $450. Other tribes around the country also used federal relief funding to issue hardship payments to tribal members.
Navajo leaders say they now will turn to funding infrastructure projects, including electricity, broadband, water lines and roads.