US officials to lift Yellowstone grizzly bear protections


Grizzlies in all continental USA states except Alaska have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, when just 136 bears roamed in and around Yellowstone.

Once off the endangered list, federal protections for the bear will be removed, meaning bears that wander off of national park boundaries will be subject to hunting laws in portions of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The move will cede more management responsibility to the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, and will open the possibility of organized hunting seasons. "The interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which includes the FWS and Wyoming Game and Fish, must be commended for its years of great work". Nick Gevock, of the Montana Wildlife Federation, said the states are ready to manage the animal, and that future conservation needs to focus on keeping the bear population robust and helping it expand.

Wyoming has adopted a Grizzly Bear Management Plan outlining how management will occur after the bears are delisted.

The most recent scientific data demonstrates a decline in grizzly bears over the past two years, largely from a spike in managed kills due to livestock conflict, as well as auto crashes and deliberate poaching.

For the Yellowstone region, the scope and quality of bear habitat, regulatory mechanisms developed over the years and the existing balance of male and female bears should allow the states to maintain a viable, long-term grizzly population number in the high-600s to low-700s, agency officials said in March when delisting was proposed. "Especially since we want to encourage more grizzly bear dispersal and connectivity in the region", Bishop said. That document is available on the Game and Fish website. I do not trust Ryan Zinke to cautiously consider how climate change threatens grizzly bears, whether that warrants them staying listed, or whether that means his agency ought to take other steps to address climate change because it threatens grizzlies. "I thank all involved in the delisting effort". He says he asked the Interior Department in 2013 to delist grizzly bears and is glad to see that finally happening.

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Environmental groups are less sure of the rule.

"We're certainly prepared to take a stand to protect the grizzly, if necessary", he said.

"We have more data now, and grizzly bears today still meet the recovery criteria, we have adequate regulatory mechanisms in place, and we have been working closely with the states that if they do choose to allow hunting of the bears, those safeguards will be in effect and we have a really good monitoring plan in place", Cooley said.

"As we look ahead, our goal is to ensure both grizzly bears and this bedrock wildlife law aren't victims of short-sighted politics", said the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

"The Endangered Species Act protections kept Yellowstone's grizzlies from extinction, but this iconic symbol of America's Wild West is still at risk", said Sylvia Fallon, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.