AWR Blog

contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936

As helicopters took to the air to haze bison into Yellowstone Park, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies took its case to court to try and stop them.

“We have tried to reason with the state and federal agencies over the low-altitude helicopter flights being used to haze bison in occupied grizzly habitat,” said Michael Garrity, the Executive Director of The Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “We cited the legal cases, the rulings of federal judges, and even the agency’s own policies that ban such activities, but they refuse to listen. So now we’re going to court to stop them.”

Garrity explained that the Alliance filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction today in Federal District Court that exhaustively outlines the case law and illegality of using low-altitude helicopter flights in occupied grizzly bear habitat. “We hoped that once the agencies’ attorneys read through our legal complaint they would advise the agencies to follow the law and halt the low-level overflights. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

“It’s well-known science that low-level overflights by helicopters ‘harm and harass’ grizzly bears in violation of the Endangered Species Act,” Garrity said. “The Yellowstone grizzly bear is currently listed as a ‘Threatened Species’ under the Endangered Species Act and the Yellowstone bison-hazing flights over occupied grizzly bear habitat are within the designated Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone.”

“The Montana Department of Livestock, US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and US Forest Service are ignoring both science and law in their continued joint authorization, funding, and actions to run hazing helicopters through occupied grizzly bear habitat in the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone Park. If these bears are not protected on the taxpayer-owned public lands of the National Park System and National Forest System in their own designated Recovery Area, where will they be protected?” Garrity asked.

“We have video footage proving that Yellowstone grizzlies flee in terror when these hazing helicopters come into their habitat,” said Garrity. “And according to the agencies’ own scientific literature, helicopters cause grizzly bears to panic and flee ‘in nearly all cases’ and the bears never become tolerant of helicopters, even with frequent exposure.”

Garrity said the studies also show that grizzlies may actually abandon areas in response to even infrequent overflights. “The consequences of habitat abandonment can be serious, particularly for species like the grizzly bear whose high-quality secure habitat is already scarce,” Garrity explained. “Accordingly, multiple court decisions have consistently set aside agency actions that call for low-altitude helicopter use in occupied grizzly bear habitat.”

The agencies have publicly stated that the helicopter flights are necessary to haze wild bison back into Yellowstone National Park so that domestic cattle do not contract the disease brucellosis from the bison. However, there has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle in the wild.

“Even worse, there is no active cattle grazing right now where they are hazing, so the concern over disease transmission is totally unsubstantiated,” Garrity said. “Plus, area residents overwhelmingly prefer the presence of bison and grizzly bears to low-level helicopters flying over their homes as if it were a combat zone.” Garrity said.

Garrity concluded, “The time has come to put a stop to this abuse — and that’s exactly what the Alliance for the Wild Rockies intends to do.”



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