BILLINGS, Mont. — A federal judge says lawsuits from environmentalists and American Indians who want to restore protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears can move forward.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Tuesday denied a request by the Interior Department to put the lawsuits on hold.

Attorneys for the agency had argued they needed time to review last year’s decision to lift protections for the animals.

Advocates for restoring protections said a delay would have hurt their efforts to stop a proposed grizzly hunt in Wyoming this fall.

The hunt would allow up to 24 bears to be killed. It would be the first legal grizzly harvest in the Lower 48 in more than 40 years.

About 700 grizzlies live in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.