The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (U.S.F.W.S.) announced its intention to review two petitions that could ultimately remove grizzly bears from the federal Endangered Species List.
“Why?” you might be asking yourselves right now. Have their numbers reached levels that would warrant such action? Is it time to celebrate?
The petitions were actually filed by the state fish and game agencies of Wyoming and Montana.
If your geography’s fuzzy, they are neighboring states that see the majority of grizzlies in the continental U.S. It seems the agencies requested state control over the management of their grizzly populations located in two separate Rocky Mountain ecosystems.
The first surrounds Glacier National Park, and the system is known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The second is centered around Yellowstone National Park, with its system known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife
“The Service finds two of these petitions present substantial information indicating the grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) may qualify as their own distinct population segment and may warrant removal from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife,” the U.S.F.W.S. wrote in a statement February 3, 2023.
“[The USFWS] will now initiate a comprehensive status review of the grizzly bear in the NCDE and GYE…to inform a 12-month finding.”
It should be noted here that a third petition seeking to delist grizzly bear populations in Idaho was denied.
Endangered Species List
According to Field & Stream, the decision is part of an ongoing ordeal that reaches back to 2007, when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service launched its first effort to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List (ESL). Since then, grizzlies have been delisted and re-listed multiple times. The most recent attempt occurred in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem back in 2017. As luck would have it for the bears, the decision was overturned by the 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals days before grizzly hunts were to begin in Wyoming and Idaho.
Big Sky State
In a letter to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Hank Worsech, the Director of U.S.F.W.S., Martha Williams, let her concerns about recent grizzly bear-related legislation there be known, claiming that the legislation conflicts with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Williams and her agency reportedly plan on taking the new legislation into consideration while directing the 12-month review of Montana’s petition to remove ESA protections from grizzly bear populations within the state.
In her correspondence, Williams cited Senate Bill 98, which passed in May 2021. It states that grizzly bears can be killed by private citizens in defense of animals attacking or threatening livestock.
She wrote, “The law could lead members of the public to wrongly believe that killing a grizzly bear when it is killing or threatening livestock is legal. In fact, it is illegal under the ESA, and individuals taking a bear under these circumstances would be subject to possible civil and criminal penalties.”
Williams is a native Montanan who served as the director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks from 2017 to 2020. Stay tuned for updates.
This article by Rebecca West was first published by The Animal Rescue Site. Lead Image: PIXABAY/BRIGACHTAL.
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