March 27, 2023

House Natural Resources Holds Hearings to Review State Wildlife Management Authority and Forestry Bills

Article Contact: Taylor Schmitz,

Why It Matters: For years, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has supported efforts to restore state wildlife management authority of species that are recovered under the Endangered Species Act, including grizzly bears and gray wolves. Furthermore, CSF has long supported efforts to alleviate the costly procedural hurdles imposed by the Cottonwood decision. Last week’s hearing marks the first movement these efforts have received so far in the 118th Congress.


  • Last Thursday, the House Natural Resources held two different hearings to support state wildlife management authority and to alleviate burdensome requirements set forth by the 2015 Cottonwood decision. 
  • The first hearing occurred in the Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries Subcommittee to consider two bills to delist the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems as well as a bill to delist the gray wolf.
  • The second hearing, which occurred in the Federal Lands Subcommittee, focused on a number of different bills, including the CSF-supported Forest Information Reform Act (H.R. 200), which would fully address the Cottonwood decision that is halting forest management projects across the west.

On Thursday morning, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries held a hearing on three different bills that would remove certain recovered species from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and return their management to the respective state fish and wildlife agencies. Specifically, the hearing included H.R. 765, the Trust the Science Act to delist the gray wolf across the lower 48, and H.R. 1419 to delist the grizzly in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem as well as H.R. 1245 to delist the grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

In 2020, the Department of the Interior announced a decision to delist gray wolves across the lower 48 states. Fast forward to February 10, 2022, a District Court in California vacated the 2020 rule removing the gray wolf from the ESA. The arguments presented in Court prevailed because wolves were originally listed on the ESA across the lower 48 states, despite the fact that wolves did not, and will never inhabit all of the lower 48 states. This ruling is purely technical in nature and does not account for the successful recovery of the gray wolf. H.R. 765 would reinstate the 2020 rule and return the management of gray wolves to state agencies.

Furthermore, the recovery of the grizzly bear is an American conservation success story that is a direct result of the efforts of inter-governmental collaboration amongst the federal government and the relevant states as well as private landowners. In 1975, when grizzly bears were listed under the Endangered Species Act, there were as few as 136 grizzlies in the GYE alone. Today, through the investment of countless hours and dollars as well as the result of science-based management, the population in the GYE contains upwards of 700 bears, which is at or near the GYE’s carrying capacity.

State fish and wildlife agencies not only have a vested interest in recovering endangered species, but they often are the entities best equipped to carry out on-the-ground conservation, law enforcement, and other management practices that are critical to healthy species and habitats.

Later in the day, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on the Forest Information Reform Act (H.R. 200), a bill that is strongly supported by CSF to address the problems caused by the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service decision that has delayed and effectively halted the implementation of critical fish and wildlife habitat improvements on lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. As wildfires, climate change, and other present challenges increasingly devastate our forests, a fix to 2015 Cottonwood decision is critical to restoring the health of forests.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the Committee holding a hearing on these bills and looks forward to working with the Committee to advance these important measures through the legislative process.

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