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.”
Now, here’s an interesting approach to combating Wyoming’s grizzly bear hunt. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is . . .
Jane Goodall is a global icon, perhaps the most admired living environmentalist and legendary for her research with chimpanzees. Cynthia Moss is famous for her conservation work in eastern Africa battling elephant poachers and speaking out against trophy hunting.
Within the last few days, Goodall, 84, and Moss, 78, entered a lottery hoping to win a coveted hunting license in Wyoming allowing them to sport shoot a grizzly bear in the Yellowstone region. They have no aspirations to actually kill a bruin. Their maneuver is part of a mass act of civil disobedience to protest Wyoming’s controversial hunt of up to 22 grizzlies—the first in 44 years—slated to commence only weeks from now.
Called “Shoot ‘em With A Camera, Not A Gun,” the impromptu campaign, spearheaded mainly by women, has caught hunting officials in Wyoming off guard. It has also created a groundswell among those who condemn the state’s recommencement of a trophy season on grizzlies just a year after they were removed from federal protection. In May, Wyoming’s wildlife commission approved the hunt unanimously 7-0.
Here’s a good article in the Hungry Horse News on the federal habitat plan intended to provide protection for grizzly bears in this corner of the country even after they are removed from the Endangered Species List . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed off on plan May 16 that looks to maintain grizzly bear habitat and recovery along the Continental Divide even after the bear is removed from the Endangered Species List.
The Habitat Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes about 8 million acres of land along the Divide from Glacier National Park south to Ovando, looks to maintain road density and other standards on federal lands, though it does include some wiggle room.
Roads and bears over the years have been a controversial subject, as federal land agencies — most notably the Forest Service, have either closed or completely torn out hundreds of miles of dirt roads that once criss-crossed the Forest. Studies have found that roads and grizzlies don’t mix — not because grizzlies won’t cross roads — they will — but because open roads often result in poaching or other forms of bear deaths due to interactions with humans.