U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes grizzly delistingWritten by Saige Albert
On March 3, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to remove the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List.
The announcement comes in response to the successful recovery of what FWS calls “one of the nation’s most iconic animals.” FWS also noted that, during the last three decades, grizzly bear populations have grown from 136 bears in 1975 to 700 or more today.
“The restoration of the grizzly bear in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho during the last three decades stands as one of America’s great conservation successes – a testament to the value of the Endangered Species Act and the strong partnerships it drives,” said FWS in their release.
“The recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear represents a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act,” said FWS Director Dan Ashe. “Our proposal 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. The final post-delisting management plans by these partners will ensure healthy grizzly populations persist across the Yellowstone ecosystem long into the future.”
Along with the proposed delisting rule, FWS also released a draft supplement to the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and a draft conservation strategy. The documents aim to ensure robust monitoring of the bears, as well as effective conservation going forward.
“Even with this proposed delisting, FWS remains committed to the conservation of the Yellowstone grizzly bear, and will stay engaged to ensure that this incredible species remains recovered,” Ashe said. “We will continue to be part of a strong monitoring program, implementation of the conservation strategy and partnership with our state and federal partners. We are look forward to hearing from the public about the proposal and consulting with Native American tribes.”
Data collected by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s efforts shows that grizzly bear range has more than doubled since the mid-1970s, and the species now occupies more than 22,500 square miles of the Yellowstone ecosystem.
“Stable population numbers for grizzlies for more than a decade also indicate that the Yellowstone ecosystem is at or near its carrying capacity for the bears,” FWS added.
The proposed rule and the supporting documents will publish soon in the Federal Register. FWS will be seeking review and comment by the public, other federal and state agencies and independent scientists.
Comments are requested 60-days after publication and will be accepted electronically at regulations.gov.
“The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is an essential tool for conserving the nation’s most at-risk wildlife, as well as the land and water on which they depend for habitat. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of the species listed from the brink of extinction and has served as the critical safety net for wildlife that Congress intended when it passed the law 40 years ago,” said FWS. “The Obama Administration has delisted more species due to recovery than any prior administration, including the Oregon Chub, Virginia northern flying squirrel and brown pelican.”
Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Ken Hamilton commented, “Once again Wyoming has exceeded the bar on delisting so once again it is time to try and see if we can delist a species that science has shown is recovered and hopefully this time the courts will agree with the scientists.”
Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association was more optimistic, also expressing appreciation to FWS and the Governor’s Office.
“We are certainly glad to see that FWS finally moved on issuing a proposed delisting rule,” he said. “It has taken longer than we would have liked, but we will take advantage of the public comment period.”
Magagna added, “We give a lot of credit to the Governor’s Office and Wyoming Game and Fish Department, who have been active in pushing FWS to move forward.”
“We are committed to maintaining a recovered grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Area into the future,” said Scott Talbott, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Wyoming has already contributed over $40 million dollars to grizzly conservation and recovery. We need to recognize the commitment of Wyoming stakeholders such as sportsmen, ranchers, conservationists, outdoor recreationists and other users of the Greater Yellowstone Area.”