Judge restores protections for grizzly bears, blocking hunts

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge has restored federal protections to grizzly bears in the Northern Rocky Mountains and blocked the first hunts planned for the animals in the Lower 48 states in almost three decades.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s order Monday came after he had twice delayed hunts in Wyoming and Idaho just as they were set to begin.

Federal officials say the hunts would have been the first in the Lower 48 states since 1991.

The ruling marks a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued when the Interior Department last year revoked federal protections for more than 700 grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Wildlife advocates say the animals face continued threats from climate change and loss of habitat.

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