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Louisiana Federal Court Upholds 2016 Delisting of the State’s Black Bear

On Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana dismissed the plaintiffs’ challenge to the removal of Louisiana black bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list of threatened species. Safari Club International (SCI) proudly supports this decision, as it further confirms that the black bears are a recovered species that should be managed through sustainable use conservation.

The decision on Monday comes as the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is in the final stages of considering whether to open a limited black bear hunting season to begin in December 2024.  The Commission would issue a maximum of ten permits to hunt the Tensas River subpopulation of black bears.  This is the largest and healthiest black bear subpopulation and has experienced significant growth and expansion beyond its core habitat area.

The fight is not over, and SCI strongly encourages its members in Louisiana and nationwide to stay engaged on this issue and support science-based wildlife management. 

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling in favor of SCI, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Richard Kennedy, President of SCI’s Acadiana Chapter and an attorney involved in the case.  “The science supports the delisting and the court’s confirmation that the Louisiana black bear population has recovered and is healthy and sustainable. We look forward to the LDWF opening a hunting season to appropriately manage this increasing bear population.”

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Twice, a coalition of groups has challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recognition of the recovery of this subspecies.  The bears were listed in 1992 largely based on habitat loss.  Following concerted efforts by the State of Louisiana and private landholders to recover habitat and increase connectivity between the bear subpopulations, the Service found the bears no longer qualified as a “threatened species” under the ESA.

The first lawsuit was filed in federal court in D.C. and was dismissed in 2020, largely based on the arguments of Safari Club International.  The plaintiffs re-filed the case in Louisiana, and it had been pending before Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge since 2019.  SCI was the only organization to defend the delisting in both lawsuits.