Wow! Lee Enterprises, owner of a number of newspapers in this part of the country, including the Missoulian, recently wrapped up their “Grizzlies and Us” project, a ten-part series consisting of some 22 individual articles examining “…the many issues surrounding the uneasy coexistence of grizzlies and humans…”
Boy, howdy is this true! An interesting article from the Missoula Current . . .
The worldwide pandemic has brought Montana’s grizzly bear managers a new challenge to deal with: a surge of new residents and backcountry neophytes.
On Monday, biologists and land managers of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee discussed what a chaotic summer it had been because of visitors flooding into Montana and how a repeat next summer could be as dangerous for grizzly bears as it was annoying for longtime residents.
“At Glacier National Park, there was a huge COVID effect,” said Glacier Park superintendent Jeff Mow. “Not only is it a large number of visitors who’d never been on public lands before and therefore didn’t know how to behave with some very basic skills like taking care of garbage, burying human waste, dogs, all those public use issues.”
Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this piece in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle . . .
Wildlife managers will talk this week about preventing run-ins between grizzly bears and humans, a discussion that comes after environmental groups pushed officials to reconsider a decade-old report that lined out measures meant to reduce those conflicts.
The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, meeting in Bozeman on Wednesday and Thursday, will consider grizzly bear death trends and the effectiveness of efforts to avoid people-grizzly conflicts that often end with bears being killed by government officials.
It will be the first time the panel of state and federal government officials from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana has met since a coalition of six environmental groups urged it to reconsider a 2009 report that included a few dozen recommendations to prevent those encounters.
This may be worth following up on. Here’s the official press release. (Also, the Missoulian has a good summary: Bullock to create citizen panel to discuss future management of grizzlies in Montana.) . . .
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today announced that he will establish a Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to help initiate a statewide discussion on grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. The Council will be selected through an application process that ends April 12th.
“The recovery of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems is a great conservation success. Still, official federal delisting has yet to come to fruition,” Bullock wrote in a memo to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Martha Williams.
“Legal uncertainty has created a void requiring our leadership,” Governor Bullock said. “As bears continue to expand in numbers and habitat, we must identify durable and inclusive strategies to address current issues and prepare for the future. This advisory council represents a key step toward Montana embracing the tremendous responsibility and opportunity of long-term Grizzly Bear recovery and management.”
Montana is home, in whole or in part, to four grizzly bear recovery zones designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE); the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE); the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem; and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. While grizzly bear numbers have surpassed recovery objectives in the GYE and NCDE, they have yet to reach recovery levels in the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot.
Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are officially under the jurisdiction of the FWS, but much of the day-to-day management of bears in Montana is done by FWP in partnership and with oversight of the FWS. The FWS delisted the GYE grizzly bear population under the Endangered Species Act in 2017, but a federal court decision last fall relisted the population. This delayed the delisting process for the NCDE and resulted in an appeal of the GYE decision by the State of Montana and others.
Grizzly bear populations continue to expand, in some cases into areas they have not occupied for decades. Management challenges and conflicts have increased. FWP, along with partner agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the FWS, work together to respond to conflicts as they occur. However, the situation has become increasingly complex as bears move into areas of Montana outside of existing recovery zones, such as the Big Hole Valley, Little Belt Mountains, and the plains east of the Rocky Mountain Front.
Developing strategies to ensure a timely and appropriate response to these conflicts and addressing the needs of communities and landowners most impacted in these areas are key priorities identified for the advisory council’s deliberations.
“We’re excited to work with this advisory council, and we see this as a great opportunity to find a way forward that reflects the values and needs of Montana as it relates to grizzly bear management,” FWP Director Williams said. “A council that is inclusive in its composition will allow for the balanced discussion we need to have.”
The Grizzly Bear Advisory Council will be tasked with considering broad strategic objectives, such as:
- Maintaining and enhancing human safety;
- Ensuring a healthy and sustainable grizzly bear population;
- Improving timely and effective response to conflicts involving grizzly bears;
- Engaging all partners in grizzly-related outreach and conflict prevention; and
- Improving intergovernmental, interagency, and tribal coordination.
The Council will focus on providing recommendations to the Governor’s Office, FWP, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission that are clear and actionable on how to move forward with grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. It will consider several pressing issues including bear distribution, connectivity between ecosystems, conflict prevention, response protocols, outreach and education, and the role of hunting and necessary resources for long-term population sustainability.
Governor Bullock is looking for a broad cross-section of interests to serve on the Council, including livestock producers, wildlife enthusiasts, conservation groups, hunters, community leaders, Tribal Nation representatives and outdoor industry professionals.
Council application information can be found online at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/species/grizzlyBear/default.html.
Here’s a well-researched article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on grizzly management in the “Bearless Bitterroot” . . .
Despite having virtually no grizzly bears and no time to think about them, Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark faces a lot of criticism for how he handles grizzly recovery in the Bitterroot Mountains.
“I’ve got some people here who think, given my connection to forest plan revision, that my role as chairman of the Bitterroot Ecosystem (grizzly recovery) Subcommittee is a conflict of interest,” Mark said. “And there were other folks that piped in, asking what should we be doing with bears showing up outside recovery areas.”
Mark and eight others serve on the Bitterroot Subcommittee, which includes six national forests, the Nez Perce Tribe, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s part of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which also includes the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, state wildlife agencies, and other stakeholders in the grizzly recovery effort.
Another interesting item from Public News Service…
After a record number of grizzly bear deaths in 2018, groups are calling for an update to a decade-old report on conflict prevention.
Six conservation groups have sent a letter to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee.
They’re urging members to develop new recommendations for avoiding conflict involving bears, people and livestock and also evaluate how well the 2009 report was implemented.
A remarkably even-handed discussion of the issues surrounding grizzly bear delisting . . .
Trina Jo Bradley squints down at a plate-sized paw print, pressed into a sheet of shallow snow.
She reaches down with fingers outstretched, hovering her palm over a sun-softened edge. Her hand barely covers a third of the track.
“That’s a big old foot right there,” she says, with a chuckle. “That’s the one where you don’t want to be like: ‘Oh! There he is right there!”
Bradley, like many ranchers, applies a wry sense of humor to things that feel out of her control.
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.
Also read . . .
Montana wildlife officials move ahead on grizzly regs despite federal delisting stall (Missoulian)
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.