US Fish & Wildlife proposes delisting grizzlies

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed delisting grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List (ESL) within the greater Yellowstone area after careful consideration and evaluation of the current bear population. Should the proposal go through, management of the grizzly bears would transition from FWS to state wildlife departments within this area, which include Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

“The recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear represents a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act,” says FWS service director Dan Ashe. “Our proposal today underscores and celebrates more than 30 years of collaboration with our trusted federal, state and tribal partners to address the unique habitat challenges of grizzlies.”

Removing the grizzly bears from the ESL does not eliminate the protections already in place in order to sustain a healthy bear population. But it does enable the states to manage the grizzlies to minimize bear-human conflicts and keep bears in areas where they are permitted, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP).

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Grizzly bears have made a major comeback since hunting and trapping nearly eradicated the entire population in the 1970s. Current tallies show that there are about 700 bears living in the greater Yellowstone area. In fact, grizzlies were initially removed from the ESL in 2007, but that was only temporary as a judge put the bears back onto the list in 2009 because of concern over grizzly bear food sources. But according to Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s chief game warden, this is no longer an issue. Additionally, the Casper Star Tribune reports that government researchers have determined that grizzlies have adequate food sources because of the variety of food types that they eat.

Yet, some groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council do not support delisting the bears, while others, such as the National Wildlife Federal, call the bear’s recovery a major success story. Regardless, the plan to delist the grizzlies will be one that conservation organizations plan to evaluate.

“The delisting rule must adequately protect grizzly habitat, commit to reducing human-caused conflict, and promote connectivity. It must also require coordinated management among Montana, Idaho and Wyoming that maintains a healthy, stable population,” says Caroline Byrd, who serves as executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, an environmental working group that analyzes conservation efforts within the Yellowstone ecosystem. “If these critical issues are not addressed, we will use all tools available to ensure that grizzly bears remain protected.”

The proposal is open to public comment. The earliest that grizzlies could be delisted isn’t until later this year.


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