Update: Grizzly bear delisting

Yellowstone grizzly bears are an irreplaceable part of America’s wildlife heritage. For decades, Greater Yellowstone Coalition has fought to bring grizzlies back from the brink. Today, our top priority is ensuring a healthy and stable bear population.

Now that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has released a draft delisting rule, we are in the process of carefully reviewing the proposal. 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. We believe 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. We also 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 delisting 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.

Finally, Greater Yellowstone Coalition opposes sport hunting of grizzly bears and believes 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.

To read the proposed rule and associated documents please click here:  

Comments on the proposed delisting rule are due by May 10, 2016.

Please consider attending a public meeting on the proposed rule if you live in the region. 
 
April 11 – Cody, WY
Holiday Inn, 1701 Sheridan Ave.
2-4 pm: USFWS public informational meeting
5-8 pm: USFWS public hearing on proposed delisting rule

April 12 – Bozeman, MT
Holiday Inn, 5 East Baxter Lane
2-4 pm: USFWS public informational meeting
5-8 pm: USFWS public hearing on proposed delisting rule

Wyoming Proposes Changes to Grizzly Management Plan

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has recently proposed a revision to its 2005 grizzly bear management plan in response to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposing to delist bears. Wyoming will be accepting comment on the plan until April 14. To view the plan and provide comment, click here.

Some key points to include in your comments: 

1.    Grizzly bears are a conservation success story in Wyoming, where we now have grizzly bears in places they haven’t been in more than 80 years. We thank all of the federal and state wildlife managers, non-governmental organizations, and landowners who have contributed to this success.

2.    This success also highlights the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act. If those protections end, and Wyoming has the authority to manage grizzly bears, we ask the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Commission to recognize grizzly bears’ significant tourism value in northwest Wyoming, in particular Jackson Hole. Grizzly bears are worth more alive than dead to the state of Wyoming. The state’s tourism economy depends on wildlife watching opportunities, and maintaining these opportunities should be part of Wyoming’s plan.

3.    The Wyoming plan should be explicit that the National Park Service manages grizzly bears within the boundaries of our national parks and within the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. 

4.    It’s critical that Wyoming continue its efforts to reduce conflicts between humans and grizzly bears. Wyoming’s Bearwise program is an example of the fine work that Wyoming Game and Fish Department does in our communities.

5.    Wyoming’s plan should include a five-year moratorium on hunting grizzly bears after delisting. This would allow a smoother transition from federal to state management and give the state time to demonstrate its commitment to managing a healthy grizzly bear population. 

Please consider attending one of the upcoming public meetings in Wyoming on proposed changes to the state’s Grizzly Bear Management Plan:

For any questions on the proposed grizzly bear delisting, state management plans, or the work Greater Yellowstone Coalition does to keep bears wild and people safe, please contact us. I'm at ccolligan@greateryellowstone.org and at (307) 734-0633.

-- Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Coordinator