US wildlife officials agree to grizzly bear review

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FILE – This April 29, 2019 file photo provided by the United States Geological Survey shows a grizzly bear and a cub along the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Wildlife advocates are seeking a court order that would force U.S. officials to consider if grizzly bears should be restored to more Western states following the animals’ resurgence in the Northern Rockies. (Frank van Manen/The United States Geological Survey via AP,File)grizzly

BILLINGS, Mont.  |  U.S. wildlife officials will review whether more protections are needed for grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states after animal advocates sued the government in a bid to restore the animals to more areas, according to court documents filed Monday.

The review must be completed by March 31, 2021, under a settlement agreement approved by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen.

The Center for Biological Diversity had said in a June lawsuit that officials should consider restoring grizzlies to areas of California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Oregon.

Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species outside Alaska.

An estimated 1,900 bears live in portions of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington state.

Environmentalists successfully sued last year to block grizzly hunts planned in Wyoming and Idaho. The hunts were scheduled after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined about 700 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park no longer needed federal protection.

Christensen disagreed and ordered protections restored.