Category: Opinion


Sioux Falls Booming…

(Bloomberg Opinion) — There are 63 metropolitan areas in the U.S. (out of 382 total) that saw their populations grow by 10 percent or more from 2010 through mid-2017, according to estimates compiled by the Census Bureau. That compares with an increase of 5.5 percent for the nation as a whole, and 6.5 percent for its metropolitan areas — which, just to be clear on what we’re talking about, are defined as “one or more counties that contain a city of 50,000 or more inhabitants, or contain a Census Bureau-defined urbanized area and have a total population of at least 100,000 (75,000 in New England).”

Thirty-nine of these fast-growing metros are in the South and 19 in the West. This should come as no big surprise, given that these two regions are estimated to have accounted for 86 percent of the country’s almost-17-million-person increase in population since 2010. None of the fast-growth areas is in the Northeast, but there are five in the slowest-growing of the four regions delineated by the Census Bureau: the Midwest.

One of these Midwestern standouts, Iowa City, Iowa, is home to a large research university, a frequent catalyst for local economic success. Another, Des Moines, Iowa, is a state capital with a metro-area population of 645,911, which is in keeping with urbanist Aaron Renn’s dictum that “If you want to be a successful Midwestern city, it helps to be a state capital with a metro area population of over 500,000.” Two, Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota, have been beneficiaries of a big shale-oil boom in their state.

That leaves Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has seen its metro-area population rise 13.5 percent since 2010 (and 68.8 percent since 1990), to 259,094. There’s no major university in town; local legend has it that city fathers were given the choice 150-plus years ago between the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota State Penitentiary, and they opted for the latter because they figured it would bring more jobs. The state capital, Pierre, is more than a three hours’ drive away. The signature local industry used to be meatpacking — and there’s still a big, exceptionally fragrant Smithfield Foods Inc. pork-processing plant along the Big Sioux River about a mile north of downtown.

This does not sound like a recipe for economic success in the early-21st-century U.S.! Yet Sioux Falls is undeniably booming. What’s up with that?

I am not the first to attempt to answer this question: James and Deborah Fallows devote the first chapter of their new book “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America” to it, and if you want a detailed account complete with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons (manufactured in Sioux Falls by Raven Industries Inc.), that’s where you really need to go. Last year, meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal described how “As Many Midwest Cities Slump, Sioux Falls Soars,” while the New York Times, early to the topic and focused on what really matters, published “A Food Scene Grows in Sioux Falls, S.D.” in 2014.

Still, this is a subject worth repeated examination, given that lots of city leaders around the country must wonder how they can capture some of that Sioux Falls magic. And I have two possibly useful observations, one that occurred to me while visiting Sioux Falls recently and another that jumped out as I looked through the metro-area population data just now.

Let’s start with the latter: Remember how I said that none of the fastest-growing metros is in the Northeast and five are in the Midwest, even though the Midwest’s population is growing more slowly (1.9 percent since 2010) than the Northeast’s (2.1 percent)? Go further down the rankings of metropolitan-area growth, and this discrepancy stands out even more. There is not a single metropolitan area in the Northeast that has grown at or faster than the national metro-area rate of 6.5 percent since 2010, and only two (Boston and State College, Pennsylvania) have grown at or faster than the overall national rate of 5.5 percent. Yet there are 19 metro areas in the slower-growing Midwest that make the first cut, and 23 that make the second.

What the Midwest has been experiencing is a great reshuffling. On its eastern side, as I wrote about Ohio last month, older industrial cities and to a lesser extent rural areas have been shedding people and jobs. To the west, the story is almost entirely one of rural areas depopulating as, among other things, bigger, better agricultural equipment allows farmers to plant and harvest more acres with less labor. Some of these people have left the region entirely — the Midwest as a whole has been experiencing net domestic out-migration for decades — but many are flocking to the region’s growth hubs, a mix of college towns, state capitals and a few other cities. So the headline on that Wall Street Journal article, while not factually wrong, is misleading. Lots of Midwestern metro areas are soaring, or at least growing faster than the national average, even as the region as a whole plods along.

Still, it cannot be denied that the Dakotas trio of Fargo, Bismarck and Sioux Falls has soared the highest since 2010. While I dismissed the former pair earlier as beneficiaries of North Dakota’s oil boom, in Fargo’s case that’s not really fair, given that it is all the way at the other end of the state from the oil wells (Bismarck, the state capital, is much closer); plus, it was growing at a healthy clip before all the fracking started. Its success raises many of the same questions that Sioux Falls’s does, and they probably have some quite similar answers. But it is Sioux Falls that I happened to visit recently, and the Sioux Falls metro area’s growth has outpaced Fargo’s if you measure from 2000 or 1990.

This isn’t just the story, though, of a state luring industry with low taxes and deregulation. South Dakota’s workforce happens to be pretty solid, too. College graduates make up a smaller share of the adult population there than nationwide, but the state ranks near the top in the percentage of adults with high school diplomas and associate degrees, as well as in literacy rate, and it has among the highest labor-force participation rates and lowest unemployment rates.

Also, the financial sector ceased being the big economic growth story in Sioux Falls a while ago. The area still has the nation’s third-highest location quotient for financial employment, a measure of how concentrated the industry is in the area relative to the nation as a whole, trailing only the metropolitan areas of Bloomington, Illinois (home of State Farm), and Des Moines (another big insurance center). But metro Sioux Falls has fewer financial-sector jobs now than it did in 2008, even as other payroll employment has risen 20 percent.

It can’t have hurt that, before it started shedding jobs, the credit-card industry provided Sioux Falls with a billionaire sugar daddy. Minnesotan T. Denny Sanford had founded and sold a company representing manufacturers of construction materials and was trying and failing to enjoy retirement when, according to Forbes, he bought a 10-branch South Dakota bank in 1986 from a friend who needed to unload it because he was going through a divorce. A few years later, Sanford hired a young executive from Citibank’s Sioux Falls operation to see if there was a credit-card niche that his First Premier Bank could exploit. What they settled on was high-interest-rate cards for people with terrible credit. First Premier is now a major national card issuer, and while its practices sometimes garner bad media coverage, they also bring in tons of money — money that Sanford, now 82, has pledged to give away fast enough that he can die broke.

Sanford has reportedly donated nearly $1 billion to one of the two Sioux Falls-area hospital systems, which is now called Sanford Health and bills itself as “the largest rural, not-for-profit health care system in the nation.” One of its affiliates, Sanford Research, employs 200 medical researchers in Sioux Falls. Regional centralization of health care has made it a key source of jobs in lots of mid-sized cities, but Sanford’s gifts have helped make those jobs even more plentiful and well-remunerated in Sioux Falls than is the norm. Sanford has also helped fund the Sanford Underground Research Facility, a state-managed physics lab in a former gold mine in the Black Hills at the western edge of the state; the new Madison Cyber Labs at Dakota State University about an hour’s drive northwest of Sioux Falls;and the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota about an hour’s drive to the south.

No one else in Sioux Falls has amassed anything like Sanford’s fortune, but other businesspeople in the city feel similarly compelled to chip in. The new mayor, Paul Ten Haken, is the founder and former chief executive of a Sioux Falls-based marketing technology company who decided it was time to “pivot” to public service, while his predecessor had been a Citibank and First Premier executive before taking charge at City Hall. Since 1987, an initiative called Forward Sioux Falls has been relying on donations from local businesses to finance most of the area’s economic development efforts, which at the moment include a giant new industrial park at the north end of town and a nearby “corporate and academic research park” affiliated with the University of South Dakota. “The business community recognizes that we’re in a low-tax state,” Dave Rozenboom, president of First Premier Bank (overseeing the local community bank, not the national credit-card operation) and co-chairman of the current Forward Sioux Falls fundraising campaign, told me. “So in essence we’re taxing ourselves. And we get to choose what to spend it on.”

This mixing of private and public interest may make you cringe, but as the Fallowses recount in their book, such public-private partnerships can be found again and again in successful cities and regions. And while cutting state taxes to spur growth doesn’t always work, combining low taxes with high investment seems like a pretty potent recipe for economic success, if you can find a way to sustain it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”

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Bowling alley owner dies after getting stuck

Bowling alley owner dies after getting stuck

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Tech icon envisions prosperous new world 'after GOOGLE'…


This is the third of a three-part, interview series with George Gilder on his new bestseller “Life After Google.” In part 1, he explains Silicon Valley’s “fundamental flaw.” In part 2, he shows why Google’s “free stuff” isn’t free. In part 3, below, Gilder describes a new internet, “after Google,” of limitless entrepreneurship and prosperity rooted in human creativity.

In “Life After Google,” George Gilder contends the age of the “Big Data” tech giants and their centralized, top-down hierarchical world is about to end, largely because their “neo-Marxist, deterministic” worldview is “fundamentally flawed.”

George Gilder

George Gilder

But what will the digital world look like “after Google”?

In an interview with WND, Gilder – whose 1981 book “Wealth and Poverty” was Ronald Reagan’s guidebook for his economic revolution and whose 1994 book “Life After Television” predicted the current digital world with astounding specificity – spoke of a frontier of free enterprise that will look more like the original internet of limitless possibilities but be bolstered by a new architecture called the “cryptocosm.”

He describes the cryptocosm, currently represented by emerging “blockchain” technologies such as bitcoin, as “a new network whose most powerful architectural imperative will be security of transactions as a property of the system rather than an afterthought.”

Blockchains are a kind of ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently, in a verifiable and permanent way.

The technology, Gilder believes, allows the unleashing of entrepreneurship on the internet.

“The Google dream is a supermind in the sky that knows everything,” Gilder told WND. “My dream is to distribute information as human minds are distributed.”

Gilder explained that the capabilities of the human mind, as “the ultimate thinking organism,” are distributed among people all over the world.

“So an economy works best if power is distributed in accord with the distribution of human minds,” said Gilder.

“It allows an efflorescence of human creativity in the image of their creator.”

That, he insisted, is “the real dream of a successful capitalist order.”

“It’s not the development of the supermind, a machine in the sky that knows everything,” said Gilder.

“I think what we’re going to have is the capability of a real global capitalism that can be conducted across networks in a distributed peer-to-peer fashion.”

His 2013 book “Knowledge and Power” argued that the knowledge of entrepreneurs, and their freedom to share and use that knowledge, are the sparks that light up the economy and set its gears in motion.


Gilder said the big issue of privacy, which dominates headlines today, will be addressed in the new digital world.

He’s not as concerned as many are, however, about privacy in terms of personal secrets, contending the belief that “there was a great halcyon period of the past where people had privacy and now technology has destroyed” is a “destructive myth” that enables governments to intervene.

life-after-google“But privacy in terms of ownership of your own data and ownership of your identity and the ability to conduct transactions without exposing all your personal information to be used and abused – that’s another issue,” he said.

“That’s what the new cryptocosm affords.”

The technology is not easy to explain without using unfamiliar terms.

Gilder describes it as essentially “a new security architecture that allows you to keep your own personal details to yourself and transact anonymously across the network.”

“You know who you are, and you shouldn’t be dependent on some database at Google to conduct transactions,” he said.

Through complex mathematical formulas, behavior, including transactions, can be documented while personal details are concealed.

“What makes my book different,” he told WND, “is I put the rise of the cryptocosm, with bitcoin and ethereum and the blockchain, in the context of the breakdown in the existing security model in the internet and the breakup of the internet into a series of walled gardens dominated by particular internet companies, Google, Facebook, et al.”

The “walled gardens” have prompted nations such as communist China and the Iranian mullahs to create their own internets, Gilder noted.

“So you have a kind of segmentation of the internet and a breakdown in the ideal of a global communication system,” he said.

“This happened because the internet was designed by communication through copying. That’s how it works. It copies things at a tremendous pace all across the world in creating a global communicator,” Gilder explained.

“It’s succeeded tremendously as a communicator, but as soon as transactions and business began to move onto the internet … security became absolutely indispensable.”

He explained that a “porous internet with a porous perforated internet stack allows all the money and power to be sucked up to the top, to Apple, Google, Facebook and these other companies.”

“To prevent that, you need to allow people to control their own identities and control their own security, to not depend on Google dispatching a SWAT team of superhackers to remedy any breakdown,” he said.

“Rather you need to have a blockchain security style of architecture in which security is achieved through distributing information rather than by centralizing,” he said.

“As a result of the amazing feat of microchips, once again, a new global architecture is made possible.”

Prospering after Google

Gilder said the new system would allow news outlets, for example, to control their own content, selling it directly to customers through arrangements such as “micropayments,” which he described as a “hassle-free way of collecting tiny amounts of money for tiny goods and services.”

“That makes it possible for you to escape the centralization of a walled garden that collects all the money,” he said.

Gilder said it would “bring pricing to bear on many transactions that currently are avoided” while providing security.

It might look like a small, automatic payment every time someone clicks on an article.

“The blockchain allows you to assign property rights to various facets of any content, including works of art,” he explained.

To those who might be inclined to object to such an arrangement, Gilder offers perspective.

“The existing internet where everything is free or subscription-based is costly beyond expectation,” he argued, “and that polarization of payments is quite stultifying and allows all the money to be sucked up into advertising.”

Gilder, who explains why Google’s “free stuff” isn’t really free, calls ads “minuses, or even mines, across the internet,” emphasizing their obvious unpopularity.

“But micropayments allow payments that people actually consider right and appropriate for each consumption of content,” he said.

Gilder noted that even now, many proposed formulas for such payments are being “pursued by the capitalist genius of experimental creativity.”


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Dangers of Social Media Disclosures…

A Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed Thursday against Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk highlights the compliance challenges companies face in an era of informal, immediate social media discourse. It also spotlights the risks associated with having a CEO who serves as the face and primary spokesman of a company.

The SEC’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, was sparked by Mr. Musk’s social media posts last month that floated the possibility of taking the electric-car maker private.

Mr. Musk on Aug. 7 said in a tweet that he was considering taking Tesla private and had secured funding. After the tweet, Tesla shares jumped 6.4% to $379.57. The share price plummeted nearly 16% from that price on Aug. 27, the first trading day after he backed away from the plan in a company blog post. The swing caused material harm to investors, the SEC alleged in its complaint.

The SEC is seeking civil penalties and asked the court to bar Mr. Musk from being an officer or director of a public company. Mr. Musk called the suit unjustified and said he has always taken action “in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors.” Tesla and its board said Thursday in a joint statement they are fully confident in Mr. Musk.

The SEC announced the suit after the market closed on Thursday. Tesla’s stock price dropped 9.9% in after-hours trading.

The SEC’s position on the use of social media to make corporate disclosures has evolved as those technologies have become more mainstream. The regulator in April 2013 approved using social media to announce key information, so long as companies tell investors which channels will be used.

Tesla told investors in a November 2013 filing to follow Mr. Musk’s personal Twitter feed for “additional information” about the company. According to the complaint, Tesla’s chief financial officer described Mr. Musk’s Twitter statements as a “strong channel of marketing,” with Mr. Musk acting as a “spokesman” for Tesla.

Mr. Musk has also become known for provocative tweets that have nothing to do with the company. A British cave explorer involved in efforts to rescue a Thai youth-soccer team trapped in a cave is suing Mr. Musk over tweets suggesting the diver was a pedophile.

The tweet at the center of the SEC complaint quoted a potential share price of $420, which Mr. Musk rounded up from a calculation of $419. Mr. Musk said, according to the complaint, that he recently learned about that number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his then-girlfriend, the musician Grimes, “would find it funny.”

“The fact that you are the CEO and the chairman of a public company does not mean that it’s your right to say whatever you want without vetting with people who can provide a measure of leavening,” said Harvey Pitt, a former SEC chairman. “That’s why most companies have general counsels.”

The SEC had crafted a settlement with Mr. Musk that it was preparing to file Thursday morning, when Mr. Musk’s lawyers called to tell the SEC’s attorneys in San Francisco that they were no longer willing to proceed with the agreement, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. After the call, the people said, the SEC pulled together the complaint. Tesla isn’t named as a defendant in the SEC’s suit.

The SEC’s complaint identified four critical statements that the regulator says are false. Of those, said Mr. Pitt, the most significant is the two-word sentence fragment “funding secured,” because that means the firm has the right to call upon the arranged financing.

The complaint also alleges that Mr. Musk didn’t follow due diligence procedures that are expected of companies before making big announcements. Mr. Musk tweeted that investors supported the potential go-private deal, but it is unclear that Mr. Musk canvassed them for their support or sought the approval of Tesla’s independent directors, Mr. Pitt said.

“You can’t just say ‘We’re going to offer everybody $420 a share and it’s all done except for the shareholder vote,’” said Mr. Pitt, who is now chief executive and managing director of business consultancy Kalorama Partners LLC. “That is not the way the real world works.”

The Justice Department also is investigating the tweets, although it didn’t bring a parallel criminal case Thursday in conjunction with the SEC.

Because the SEC’s case hinges on Mr. Musk’s belief that he had the funding in hand when posting the tweet, the lawsuit was a draconian step too far, said Thomas Gorman, a partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP, who previously served as senior counsel in the SEC’s enforcement division.

“It’s an extreme remedy,” he said. “It’s harsh.”

If he were still at the SEC, Mr. Gorman said, he wouldn’t have brought the lawsuit. Instead, the SEC should have issued a report of its investigation, providing guidance on what it believes is the proper way to announce secured funding, he said.

“Everyone can hope a lot of things; it’s not a fraud complaint,” Mr. Gorman said.

Threatening to remove Mr. Musk from his position at Tesla is one of the most high-profile actions against a corporate executive in recent years, let alone one with Mr. Musk’s public stature.

The lawsuit, regardless of result, will resonate with the general investing public, said Alma Angotti, a former SEC enforcement attorney who now is a managing director at Navigant, a consulting firm.

“There will be a lot of general deterrence generated from this action because everyone will hear about it,” she said.

Write to Tatyana Shumsky at and Samuel Rubenfeld at

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Tax Cut 2.0 Push Seen Ending in Whimper…

Tax Cut 2.0 Push Seen Ending in Whimper...

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Gas prices at 4-year high ahead of midterms…

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Japan Talks With Focus on Cars…

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Planned Parenthood forces cancellation of 'GOSNELL' screening…

Gosnell One Sheet

Planned Parenthood convinced a hotel in Austin, Texas, to cancel a screening of a new movie about convicted abortionist Kermit Gosnell, according to the film’s producers.

The movie, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” which opens in theaters Oct. 12, was to be screened Saturday night in the Hyatt Hotel in the Texas capital at the same time Planned Parenthood hosts a $400 a plate gala dinner headlined by Cecille Richards, the organization’s former CEO.

The movie’s producers, however, were told Monday by the hotel the screen was canceled for “security reasons.”

The producers told WND they paid the deposit and signed the contract to reserve the space for the screening.

“Everything that was required by the Hyatt was provided and completed as required,” a spokesman said.

Producer Ann McElhinney said the movie screening “gave a real choice to the people of Austin.”

“Over 250 had already registered to go and we were receiving dozens of new RSVPs every day,” she said. “But now thanks to the bullying of Planned Parenthood and the cowardice of the Hyatt they won’t get to see the Gosnell Movie and the truth about abortion.”

Gosnell, who ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, was convicted in 2011 of multiple counts of first degree murder for late-term and after-birth abortions. A routine investigation led to the discovery of the criminal abortion operation, which Gosnell had been running for years.

The producers say the movie exposes the lack of attention the case received at the time.

Planned Parenthood’s Richards had been invited to the screening at the Hyatt, the producers said.

Producer Phelim McAleer said the cancellation is “only a temporary victory for the forces of intolerance that have tried to bury this story all along the way.”

He said the Hyatt screening was just a “sneak peek” before the movie is brought to 750 screens nationwide on Oct. 12.

The film centers on Detective James “Woody” Wood, played by Dean Cain, and his partner Det. Stark (Alfonzo Rachel) who work an informant network to identify a doctor who had been selling prescription drugs illegally.

As the case unfolded, Wood and District Attorney Sarah Jane Morris were confronted not only by the horrors of the case but also fierce resistance from government and personal politics.

“Gosnell” is directed by Nick Searcy who starred in “The Shape of Water” and the critically acclaimed FX series “Justified.”

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NASA can see dark, polluted Carolina rivers spilling into the ocean from space…

A NASA satellite true-color image that shows water discolored by excess soils, sediments, decaying leaves, pollution, and other debris after Hurricane Florence. (NASA)

Images from a NASA satellite in space show dark, polluted water from Carolina rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

Visible and infrared images show dissolved organic matter in the water with excess soils, sediments, decaying leaves, pollution, and other debris resulting from Hurricane Florence.

“Organic matter—such as leaves, roots, or bark—contain pigments and chemicals (such as tannins) that can color the water when they dissolve. Depending on the amount of dissolved particles, the water in natural-color imagery can appear blue, green, yellow, or brown as the CDOM concentration increases,” a NASA spokesperson said.

The Waccamaw River is expected to peak Wednesday at 22 feet near Conway, twice the normal flood stage, higher than the record of 17.9 feet, according to charts published by the National Weather Service.

The Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers aren’t expected to return to normal levels until October, the charts show.

North Carolina river swirls with gray muck near flooded coal ash dump

Dam breach at Duke plant; coal ash could spill

Florence: Evacuations continue as North Carolina rivers rise

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Mosquitoes New Menace…

LUMBERTON — Hurricane Florence exited Robeson County 10 days ago, but it still has some bite.

The record rainfall has created pools of water that are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and local reports are that small children and pets have been carried away by some of the bigger ones. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but there are a lot of mosquitoes, and they are big and aggressive.

Bill Smith, county Health Department director, calls them “nuisance” mosquitoes, and not generally a threat to a person’s health, such as mosquitoes that carry bacteria that can make people sick and even kill them.

Smith said the county does not have a spray program it is so large and rural that spraying operations are generally ineffective and costly. State Sen. Danny Britt said on Facebook that he and Rep. Brenden Jones are working to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide money to Robeson County, which has been declared a disaster area because of Florence, that can be used to fund spraying operations.

The city of Lumberton is actively spraying to combat the mosquito infestation, City Manager Wayne Horne said. Two trucks are being used to essentially spray all day every day, and that will continue as long as it is needed.

However, the best defense against mosquitoes can be self-defense.

According to the Health Department, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding:

— Remove containers that can hold water, especially old tires.

— Keep gutters clean and in good repair.

— Repair leaky outdoor faucets and change the water in bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week.

— Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens fit tightly and are not torn.

— Keep tight-fitting screens or lids on rain barrels.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, to avoid being beaten:

— Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET; Picaridin; IR3535; Oil of lemon eucalyptus; Para-menthane-diol; or 2-undecanone.

— Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

— If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.

Reach Donnie Douglas at 910-416-5649 or [email protected]

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Judge restores protections for grizzly bears, blocking hunts…

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge ordered federal protections restored for grizzly bears in the Northern Rocky Mountains on Monday, a move that blocks the first grizzly hunts planned in the Lower 48 states in almost three decades.

Wyoming and Idaho had been on the cusp of allowing hunters to kill up to 23 bears this fall. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen had twice delayed the hunts, and the latest order blocking them was due to expire later this week. The hunts would have been the first in U.S. outside Alaska since 1991.

Christensen wrote in his ruling that the case was “not about the ethics of hunting.” Rather, he said, it was about whether federal officials adequately considered threats to the species’ long-term recovery when they lifted protections for more than 700 bears living around Yellowstone National Park.

In the judge’s view, the answer was no.

He noted that an estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous U.S. and said it would be “simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst” not to consider the status of grizzlies outside the Yellowstone region, one of the few areas where they have bounced back.

State and federal officials reacted with disappointment. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said the ruling provided further evidence of flaws in the Endangered Species Act and the need for Congress to make changes.

“Grizzly bear recovery should be viewed as a conservation success story,” Mead said in a statement.

A bid to remove protections for the region’s gray wolves ran into similar legal problems last decade. In that case, Congress intervened in 2011 to strip safeguards from the animals through legislation, opening the way to public wolf hunts.

Pressure to lift protections on bears and allow hunting has increased in recent years as the number of conflicts between bears and people increased. Most of those conflicts involve attacks on livestock but occasionally bears attack people, such as a Wyoming hunting guide killed earlier this month by a pair of grizzly bears.

The ruling marks a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued when the Interior Department last year revoked federal protections. They argued that the animals face continued threats from climate change and loss of habitat.

Tim Preso, an attorney with EarthJustice who represented many of the plaintiffs, said Christensen’s ruling made clear that the government had moved too hastily to remove protections because bears are absent from much of their historical range.

“Putting the blinders on to everything other than Yellowstone grizzlies was illegal,” he said. “We tried to get them to put on the brakes, but they refused to do that.”

Hunting and agriculture groups and the National Rifle Association had intervened in the case seeking to keep management of grizzlies under state control.

Restoring protections will allow the grizzly population to grow unchecked, “endangering the lives and livelihoods of westerners who settled the region long ago,” said Cody Wisniewski, representing the Wyoming Farm Bureau.

The grizzlies living in and around Yellowstone were classified as a threatened species in 1975 after most bears had been killed off early last century and the population was down to just 136 animals.

Government biologists contend Yellowstone’s grizzlies are now thriving, have adapted to changes in their diet and are among the best-managed bears in the world.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland said the agency was reviewing Monday’s ruling but stood behind its decision to lift protections.

The agency initially declared a successful recovery for the Yellowstone population in 2007, but a federal judge ordered protections to remain while wildlife officials studied whether the decline of a major food source — whitebark pine seeds — could threaten the bears’ survival.

The Fish and Wildlife Service concluded last year it had addressed that and all other threats and said the grizzlies were no longer a threatened species requiring restrictive federal protections for them and their habitat.

That decision turned management of the bears over to the states, which agreed on a plan that set hunting quotas based on the number of deaths each year to ensure the population stays above 600 animals.

The federal agency has been moving toward lifting federal protections for another group of about 1,000 bears living in Montana’s Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, but it first wanted to see how Christensen ruled on the Yellowstone case.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Bishop with the Western Environmental Law Center said the agency should reconsider those plans in light of Christensen’s ruling.

“The idea of recovering grizzly bears in the Lower 48 should still be on the table. They shouldn’t get away with this piecemeal delisting approach,” Bishop said.


Associated Press writers Matt Volz in Helena and Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming contributed to this story.


Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at .

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