April 20, 2018

US officials to lift Yellowstone grizzly bear protections

25 June 2017, 02:15 | Guillermo Sutton

US officials to lift Yellowstone grizzly bear protections

US officials to lift Yellowstone grizzly bear protections

"I am pleased to see the administration recognizing the recovered status of the grizzly bear in the Yellowstone area", Enzi said.

The current Yellowstone grizzly population is estimated at 700 individuals, up from as few as 136 bears in 1975, according to the Interior Department.

"With this act, management control of the Grizzly Bear in the Yellowstone Ecosystem returns to Montana, where it belongs".

Wolf says that despite concerns by some that the announcement will mean open season for bear hunting, FWP will proceed carefully. Further, the tri-state agreement incorporated into the Strategy-in which Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming promise to adhere to numerous grizzly conservation commitments-allows any of the states to back out of that agreement upon simply 180 days' notice. "The interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which includes the FWS and Wyoming Game and Fish, must be commended for its years of great work".

The Yellowstone bears' delisting follows another recent legislative decision that abolished other types of protections for bears in Alaska.

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A press statement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says that the "population was determined to be recovered because multiple factors indicate it is healthy and will be sustained into the future". "I was 12 years old growing up in Bozeman when steps began to restore the grizzly bear population".

The final rule to delist the Yellowstone grizzly will next be published to the federal register for public review, and will take effect 30 days later, officials said.

"If trophy hunting commences outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton, the very bears critical to establishing connectivity with other isolated populations will be the first to die", said a statement issued by Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center and Kelly Nokes of WildEarth Guardians, which said it would challenge the decision. Grizzlies must eventually connect across the six recovery zones, including with the sub-populations of the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yak ecosystems and bears in the North Cascades ecosystem.

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. They point to the fact that a key food source for the bears, whitebark pine nuts, may be on the decline due to climate change.

Environmental groups are less sure of the rule. "We think the bears could end up in a very predicament that necessitated their placement in the endangered species list in the first place", Pacelle said. The Service's decision today flouts the letter and intent of the Endangered Species Act, ignores the best available science, and undermines the recovery of this cherished species as a whole. Now is not the time to strip these bears of vital federal protections.

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