Hunters have their sights set on Yellowstone's tiny population of grizzly bears.
Grizzly bear populations have been depleted by hunters and trappers, leading to the extinction of several local populations - there are now roughly 1,500 grizzlies in the lower 48, living in less than 2 percent of their former habitat. The species is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
But in 2013 and 2014, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) granted a series of permits to hunt elk which included the possibility of killing 15 grizzly bears in the area around Yellowstone National Park. A coalition of conservation groups has threatened to sue the federal government, alleging that these permits to hunt grizzly bears violates the Endangered Species Act.
Reuters reports that the law firm Earthjustice, on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Western Watersheds Project notified the Obama Administration of their plans to sue on Wednesday. The groups say that the USFWS permits could negatively impact the grizzly population in those areas.
"Killing 15 more bears in the Yellowstone region, including even in one of our nation's premier national parks, could be the straw that breaks the camel's - or, in this case, the grizzly's - back," said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso in a statement. "The Endangered Species Act requires federal officials to look at that big picture, yet they failed to do so."