The Washington Post has a good, media-rich article on the current status of grizzly bear recovery around Yellowstone . . .
Dean Peterson, a rangy fourth-generation rancher with a handlebar mustache, is used to factoring in all sorts of challenges as he works his vast spread in the Big Hole Valley. Summer wildfires that can sweep down the pine-blanketed mountains to the west, harsh winters that can endanger his thousand-plus head of cattle.
Yet in the back of his mind these days is a threat most of his forefathers never faced: grizzly bears. Settlers pushing West had all but exterminated the hulking predators by the time Peterson’s great-grandfather arrived here in the late 1800s.
A year ago, however, a trail camera in the nearby forest snapped a grainy photo of a grizzly crossing a stream, marking the first confirmed sighting in the valley in a century. Then in May, Peterson was stunned to see one lope across a snow-dusted road as he drove a four-wheeler a few miles from his property.
To make the plains and mountains safe for the great herds of cattle that were brought to the West at the end of the 19th century, grizzly bears were routinely shot as predators by bounty hunters and ranchers.
Ever since, the bears in Yellowstone National Park, protected from hunting, have been cut off from the rest of their kind. Their closest kin prowl the mountains some 70 miles north, in and around Glacier National Park.
In a new paper, biologists say that as grizzly populations increase in both Glacier and Yellowstone, more adventurous males from both parks are journeying farther to stake out territory, winding up in places where they have not been seen in a century or more.
At least three different legal challenges were launched Friday against the U.S. government’s decision to lift protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area that have been in place for more than 40 years.
The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society, and WildEarth Guardians are among those challenging the plan to lift restrictions this summer.
Here’s the official press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regarding the relisting of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem . . .
In the final step marking a remarkable recovery effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be removed from the Endangered Species List.
“The delisting demonstrates Montana’s long-standing commitment to the recovery of grizzly bears,” said Martha Williams, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “FWP takes its public trust responsibility seriously and we intend to follow through in sustaining grizzly bears in Montana as well as all other species that we manage.”
Grizzly bears were put on the Endangered Species List in 1975. At that point as few as 136 bears remained in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Today the population is estimated at more than 700.
Management of bears in Montana’s portion of the GYE will be guided by the interagency Conservation Strategy, which will ensure a recovered grizzly bear population and that FWP and the other states continue to meet the criteria in the recovery plan. This Conservation Strategy was approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in December. The strategy along with the Southwest Montana Grizzly Management Plan and a Memorandum of Agreement between Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will ensure a healthy grizzly population is maintained in the GYE.
Also, the three states have agreed to manage bears conservatively and not down to a minimum number. The goal for state management is to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the GYE.
“The grizzly bear population in the GYE has met all the recovery goals and the necessary safeguards are in place. This is an amazing success story,” said Ken McDonald, FWP wildlife division administrator.
FWP remains committed to continue its monitoring of females with cubs, genetic variation, bear distribution and mortalities.
In addition, FWP staff will monitor and respond to instances of human-bear interaction, livestock conflicts and provide grizzly bear outreach and education.
Thursday’s announcement only applies to the GYE. Grizzlies in the rest of Montana, including the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, will remain on the Endangered Species List.
The feds officially announced they are removing the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies from the Endangered Species List . . .
For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Citing a rebound in the bear’s population, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its intention Thursday to end these protections and return oversight of the animal’s status to the state level.
The agency says the rule to remove the grizzly from the endangered species list will be published “in coming days” and “will take effect 30 days after publication.”
“This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement. “As a Montanan, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.”
As the grizzly bear population rises, the bears spread into more of their historic range . . .
A probable grizzly bear sighting just over the edge of the Missoula Valley highlights the theme of this week’s Interagency Grizzly Committee meeting in Choteau: People get ready.
“We’ve done such a good job with the recovery, the public needs to understand what’s happening and how they can be safe in where they live,” IGBC spokesman Gregg Losinski said on Friday. “There are challenges because we’re not doing recovery anymore — we’re doing management.”
Since getting federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, grizzly bears now number nearly 2,000 in the continental United States. Most of those are concentrated in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park (about 700 grizzlies) and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem between Missoula and Glacier National Park (about 1,000 grizzlies).
Removal of Yellowstone area grizzlies from the Endangered Species List is by no means a done deal . . .
Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting, amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups.
Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by the end of 2016.
But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault said it could take the agency another six months to finish reviewing 650,000 public comments that have poured in on the proposal.
The U.S. Department of the Interior responded to community objections over gold mining activity in the Yellowstone area . . .
The seats were full, and there wasn’t much room to stand. About 100 people — locals, environmental groups, political staffers and government officials — stuffed a conference room at Chico Hot Springs here on Monday to hear what they all considered good news.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was here to announce that the Obama administration would temporarily block new mining claims on about 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land north of Yellowstone National Park, near where two mining companies have asked the state for permission to look for gold on private land.
“We’ve all heard what you’ve told us, which is Yellowstone is more valuable than gold,” Jewell said as the room burst into applause.
Members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted to approve a conservation strategy allowing for delisting of the grizzly bear in the region including Yellowstone Park. The vote was not quite unanimous, with the superintendent of Yellowstone Park voting against it and Leander Watson of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe abstaining . . .
Wildlife officials have moved one step closer to removing the Yellowstone grizzly population from the Endangered Species Act by approving a future conservation strategy.
The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted to approve the conservation strategy, sending it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of what has been a months-long process to potentially remove the Yellowstone grizzly from federal protection.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed lifting the federal protections for the Yellowstone bears in March. Grizzly bears were first listed as threatened in 1975 when the Yellowstone population was estimated to have as few as 136 bears. Recent estimates say the population is now above 700.