Environmental groups file lawsuit to protect La. black bear
ATCHAFALAYA BASIN - Multiple organizations have filed a lawsuit in an effort to protect the Louisiana black bear.
According to a release, the lawsuit was filed Thursday by a coalition of conservation groups led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility with co-counsel Atchafalaya Basinkeeper. The lawsuit cites mounting threats to the remaining small population for which it says existing safeguards are inadequate.
The Louisiana black bear is one of 16 subspecies of American black bear. As of right now, the Louisiana black bear has lost 99 percent of its historic population and more than 97 percent of its historic range, according to the release.
The bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species list Act in 1992. In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared it recovered. The lawsuit claims that this decision was based on false assumptions and "shoddy science" such as relying upon recovery corridors that don't connect true native populations.
“The Louisiana black bear is a victim of biological malpractice,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. “Delisting the Louisiana black bear was a premature claim of ‘Mission Accomplished.'”
The suit also argues the recovery plan relied on by FWS in its delisting decision puts the bear in greater jeopardy by ignoring:
-Steadily increasing loss of bottomland forest and other critical habitat due to climate change.
-Uncontrolled and rising human-caused mortality, from vehicular collisions, poaching and other causes.
-The severe threat of hybridization with a non-native bear population introduced for sport-hunting.
The complaint also argues that the population size of Louisiana black bears was overestimated. But, even if the population levels relied upon in the delisting are taken at face value, the population densities are well below normal for a sustainable black bear population, the suit says.
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