Interior releases post-delisting management proposal for grizzlies

Posted: May 6, 2013

Written by

Phil Taylor, E&E News PM
Grizzly bear

The Fish and Wildlife Service today released a draft conservation strategy for grizzly bears in northern Montana, a document designed to demonstrate the species is ready to be removed from the endangered species list.

While no final decisions have been made about whether to delist the Northern Continental Divide population of grizzlies, agency officials said the strategy is designed to provide "adequate regulatory mechanisms" to ensure the species continues to thrive, a key requisite under the Endangered Species Act.

"We developed this strategy because maintenance of a healthy, recovered grizzly population depends on the effective continuation of many partnerships to manage and conserve the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear population and its habitat," said Noreen Walsh, Mountain-Prairie regional director for FWS. "By involving the public, we aim to arrive at a scientifically based strategy that not only ensures the persistence of grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, but also works for the people living in the places that grizzlies call home."

The draft strategy spells out management and monitoring of the grizzly bear population and habitat upon delisting.

Noting that humans are the leading cause of grizzly deaths worldwide, the strategy seeks ways to prevent and respond to human-bear conflicts and mitigate impacts through habitat protections.

The grizzly population in the Northern Continental Divide, which includes Glacier National Park, adjacent areas in Canada and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, now numbers 1,000 and continues to grow, FWS said.

FWS in 2007 delisted grizzlies in the Yellowstone National Park region, but protections were reinstated in 2009 by a federal judge in Montana who ruled Interior had failed to prove that a decline in whitebark pine -- a key food source for grizzlies -- would not threaten the species' survival.

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last summer assured Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) that he would try again to delist the Yellowstone population by 2014 (Greenwire, July 24, 2012).

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