Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A Montana federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection Monday, permanently blocking hunting seasons in two states.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled to reverse a United States Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove the protections and canceled the first grizzly bear hunt in the continental United States since 1991, NBC News reported.
Christensen wrote that the wildlife service "failed to make a reasoned decision" when it removed about 700 Yellowstone grizzlies from the Endangered Species Act, adding the case wasn't "about the ethics of hunting, and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter."
The judge added the agency didn't consider how delisting the grizzlies could affect the survival of about 1,200 bears in five other recovery areas and that the Fish and Wildlife Service also acted arbitrarily and capriciously in analyzing threats to the Yellowstone bears.
The Fish and Wildlife Service "illegally negotiated away its obligation to apply the best available science in order to reach an accommodation with the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana" by relying on two studies that the Yellowstone bears' genetic independence, both of which stated the bears required more genetic interchange from other populations, Christensen wrote.
Wyoming issued 22 hunting permits and Idaho issued one as both states planned to allow hunters with permits to kill up to 23 grizzlies.
In August, Christensen issued a temporary restraining order that canceled hunts that were scheduled to take place that weekend.