Yellowstone grizzly bears are an irreplaceable part of America’s wildlife heritage. For decades, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has fought to bring grizzlies back from the brink, and today, ensuring a healthy, stable bear population remains a top priority for the organization.
With the release of the draft delisting rule for the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear population, we are in the process of carefully reviewing the proposal. We will be providing comments and engaging our members and supporters to ensure delisting the bear will not threaten the long-term recovery of grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone.
The recovery of grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone is one of our country’s greatest conservation success stories and transitioning bears off of the Endangered Species List must be done in a way that continues this legacy. To this end, we believe that any delisting rule must:
- Protect core habitat – As the animal in the region with the slowest reproductive rate and highest requirements for home ranges, bears need vast, undeveloped habitat. Meaningful and enforceable habitat protections, including limits on development and roads are a must.
- Reduce conflicts and maintain a stable population – Grizzly bears must be managed as a stable population, without arbitrary reductions in the number of bears. Accordingly, strict limits on human-caused mortality must be set. We expect a continued commitment from Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming to reduce conflicts between people and bears.
- Commit to connectivity and coordinated management – The long-term viability of Yellowstone grizzlies, especially in a time of climate change, depends on their ability to connect with other bear populations in the Northern Rockies. The rule should ensure this important milestone is reached. Also, the Yellowstone grizzly bear population should be managed as an ecosystem population, not as separate Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana populations. These three states, along with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Native American tribes and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team must continue to coordinate and communicate, with public input, on bear management.
We oppose sport hunting of grizzly bears and believe it is unnecessary for managing a stable bear population. At minimum, a delay in the onset of hunting until the states have demonstrated their commitment to maintaining a stable population, particularly given the record high number of bears killed in 2015, seems prudent. The leading cause of bear mortality is, and likely always will be, conflicts with humans. Improper storage of food and garbage, livestock depredations, run-ins with hunters, and other avoidable incidents are killing too many bears. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is actively addressing each of these sources of conflict to keep people safe and bears wild.
Over the next several weeks and months we will be reaching out to leading bear biologists to review the science behind the proposed rule. We will also be closely examining the regulations contained in the conservation strategy, proposed rule and state management plans. All of these plans must align and offer enforceable protections for the bear. If the final rule does not adequately address the criteria and concerns outlined above, we will use all tools available to ensure that grizzly bears remain protected.
-- Scott Christensen, Conservation Director