Here’s a good summary of the challenges facing grizzly recovery planning, by the inimitable Rob Chaney . . .
Was the bear that dug up earthworms on a Stevensville golf course last October a sign of the end or the beginning of grizzly recovery in Montana?
That question occupied everyone at last week’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) winter meeting in Missoula after a second attempt to delist grizzlies from Endangered Species Act collapsed in court. But the two-day gathering adjourned without revealing how to answer the court critique or how to deal with new grizzly issues. They range from how to fill grizzly-deprived places like the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to how to get more than a dozen state and federal agencies to share their bear conflict reports for analysis. That means continued participation from top agency decision-makers, who were in noticeably short supply at the Missoula meeting.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Department of Justice must decide by Dec. 21 whether to appeal the latest defeat of its Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem delisting. If the federal government doesn’t appeal, grizzly managers face several choices for the future. The direction they pick will say a lot about how the Endangered Species Act handles a high-maintenance animal like Ursus arctos horribilis.
Here’s an excellent write-up on the current status of removing grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List . . .
For the second time in a decade, the officials charged with getting grizzly bears off the Endangered Species List have to rethink their future after a major court setback.
A 2007 federal move to delist grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming failed when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife couldn’t show the bears could withstand the loss of traditional food sources like whitebark pine seeds and cutthroat trout.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) oversaw years of field work that concluded the bears could find alternate foods, and the federal government published a new delisting rule for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2017. Last September, another federal judge found it lacking and returned Yellowstone grizzlies to Endangered Species Act protection.
A major subject at last week’s NCDE meeting was the increased conflicts between humans and grizzlies as the bears continue to spread out into their original range . . .
Once teetering on the brink of extirpation, there are now more than 1,000 grizzly bears roaming more than 8 million acres of land known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), which stretches from the top of Glacier National Park to Missoula.
But the booming bear population also comes with a new challenge: what to do when those grizzlies stray beyond the core of the NCDE, an area that includes Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian reservations, five national forests and large swaths of state and private land. That challenge was the main focus for wildlife and land managers gathered in Missoula for the bi-annual NCDE meeting on Nov. 20.
During the daylong meeting, state and federal wildlife managers updated attendees on the regional grizzly bear population. This year, there have been 50 confirmed grizzly bear deaths or removals from the NCDE. Three of those mortalities (a term used by wildlife biologists whenever a bear is removed from the NCDE population, even if it’s going to a zoo) occurred recently in the Flathead Valley. On Nov. 8, a young male grizzly bear was struck and killed by a train near Columbia Falls. And in the last month, two adult females died near the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Both of those bears died of natural causes.
Grizzly bears in this corner of Montana will stay on the Endangered Species List a bit longer while federal officials evaluate the impact of an adverse judicial opinion on delisting the Yellowstone grizzly population . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday it no longer plans to propose removing the population of grizzly bears in and around Glacier National Park from the endangered species list this year.
“We were on track to try and have a proposal, or at least have an evaluation of recovery and a potential proposal, out by the end of the calendar year,” says Hilary Cooley, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, at an annual meeting Tuesday on grizzlies in what’s known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, or NCDE.
She says a federal judge’s September opinion on last year’s delisting of a different population of bears in and around Yellowstone put a wrench in those plans.
Assuming grizzly bears are delisted in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE, essentially Northwest Montana), Montana would take over management of the bears. The Montana department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a series of meetings to discuss management objectives, including one in Kalispell at 6:30pm on September 27 at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive . . .
Public meetings on how the state will deal with the growing number of grizzly bears around Glacier National Park if they’re removed from the endangered species list begin this week…
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) spokesman Dillon Tabish says the meetings are not meant to address the question of whether or not to delist the bear, and are not related to a separate population of grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park, whose federal protections are currently tangled up in federal court.
“Are we comfortable with a minimum of 800 grizzly bears on the landscape? Is that too many? Is that not enough? We really, genuinely want to hear Montanans’ input on that question and that question alone.”
The meetings will feature presentations on the grizzly population by state biologists and the opportunity for Montanans to voice their opinion on the rule.
Here’s an excellent article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen restoring federal protection to Yellowstone area grizzlies . . .
A federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection and effectively blocked grizzly hunting seasons in Wyoming and Idaho on Monday.
“Although this order may have impacts throughout grizzly country and beyond, this case is not about the ethics of hunting and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote at the start of his 48-page ruling. “This court’s review, constrained by the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress, is limited to answering a yes-or-no question: Did the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceed its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear?”
Christensen ruled the agency did err by failing to consider how delisting the estimated 750 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park might affect survival of another roughly 1,200 bears in five other recovery areas. He wrote Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also acted arbitrarily and capriciously in analyzing threats to the Yellowstone bears.
The current court challenge to the Wyoming and Idaho grizzly hunt is only the tip of the iceberg . . .
While most stories about last week’s grizzly bear court hearing trumpeted the last-minute suspension of trophy hunts in Wyoming and Idaho, the lawsuit had nothing to do with the legality of grizzly hunting.
And while it did focus on whether grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem still need federal protection, the eventual decision will affect a far larger landscape. That points up a conundrum of the Endangered Species Act: It’s one challenge to recover a species, but quite another to delist it.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen didn’t render a decision from the bench on Thursday as many expected he might. But he did grant a 14-day restraining order blocking Wyoming and Idaho from starting their grizzly hunts on Saturday.
Public hearings scheduled in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, Conrad
The Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved language for a proposed administrative rule that would codify population objectives for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).
The decision on August 9, 2018 sets into motion a public comment period that will run from Aug. 24 through Oct. 26. Public hearings will be held in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, and Conrad. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will explain and answer questions about the proposed population objectives at the hearings and take public comment.
The population objective is for NCDE, which is one of six designated recovery areas for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states. Grizzly bears in the NCDE are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, although they have met their recovery criteria and may be proposed for delisting in the future.
The NCDE subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) released a revised conservation strategy for grizzly bears (found here) earlier this summer. This document summarizes the commitments and coordinated efforts made by the state, tribal and federal agencies to manage and monitor the grizzly bear population and its habitat upon delisting.
Here’s a good overview, with useful links, of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s proposed grizzly bear conservation strategy . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is taking the next step toward delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by formalizing how the agency will manage the population.
On Thursday, the FWP Commission will decide whether to give initial approval to a new administrative rule that would set state grizzly population objectives for the 16,000-square-mile area, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. If approved, the rule would go out for public comment, then final approval in December.
In mid-June, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee released a conservation strategy for the northern population, which depends on cooperation between federal, state and tribal entities. However, the executive committee delayed its decision to endorse the 326-page document until members had a chance to review it. A vote is expected by the end of summer, and an initial delisting proposal is expected sometime this fall.
Here’s the official Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release announcing their proposed “administrative rule” for managing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.
“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”