Too Soon to Delist Grizzlies

10 May 2016 | Defenders of Wildlife News Release

MISSOULA, Mont. – Defenders of Wildlife says the proposed delisting of Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act should be withdrawn (comments submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) today).

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, issued the following statement:

“The historic comeback of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is truly a remarkable achievement. But the current proposal threatens progress made to date.

“The Service is rushing to delist the grizzly bear before it knows how the Northern Rockies states and other federal agencies plan to manage it. It is unacceptable to proceed with delisting when the state and federal plans governing how this population will be managed are incomplete and therefore, unenforceable.

“Further, the Service’s current proposal doesn’t provide grizzlies with enough protections to ensure their long-term recovery. We can’t afford to be careless with this species. There is no need to rush this process, but that’s exactly what the Service appears to be doing.”

Defenders calls on the Service to put the proposed delisting rule on hold for the following reasons: First, the Service needs to strengthen habitat protections and mortality limits in the proposed rule. Second, state and federal management plans detailing how this population will be managed are incomplete and must be updated to provide enforceable protections. Third, the Service must rectify inconsistencies that currently exist in the set of documents (the proposed rule, the recovery plan, and the conservation strategy) detailing how this population will be managed post-delisting.

As the Service continues to work with the state and federal agencies involved, it must prioritize the following:

  • Strong protections for the core population and habitat.
  • Restored connectivity with other grizzly bear populations by protecting bears in areas important to connectivity, allowing the population to continue to expand and securing habitat on public lands in between populations.
  •  Continued and enhanced efforts to minimize conflicts between grizzly bears and people, thereby improving social tolerance and public acceptance for the bears throughout their range.
  •  Adequate funding to support ongoing grizzly bear recovery.

Background: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming’s state grizzly bear management plans must be revised to provide “adequate regulatory mechanisms” to conserve the species – a requirement of the Endangered Species Act. Wyoming has yet to finalize a revised grizzly bear state management plan, and the draft is not in line with important details of the Service’s delisting proposal. Idaho and Montana have not yet set a public timeline for revising or allowing public review of revisions to their grizzly bear management plans. Until all three state grizzly bear management plans are revised and completed, it is impossible to assess if those management plans will provide bears with the “adequate regulatory mechanisms” they need. In addition, the Forest Service should allow for public review of any changes to the 2006 forest plan amendments. Currently the timeline for any such process is not public knowledge. Given that the Forest Service manages over 65 percent of suitable habitat in the ecosystem, this is a critical missing piece of the puzzle.

Throughout the Northern Rockies, Defenders works closely with management agencies, other conservation groups and local residents to minimize conflict between bears and people. Since 1998, Defenders has invested over a million dollars on close to 300 on-the-ground projects including installing electric fencing around numerous bear attractants, purchasing bear resistant garbage containers for residents, and placing bear resistant food lockers in campgrounds. All of these measures reduce the likelihood of lethal bear/human conflicts and increase human tolerance for the presence of bears on the landscape. Defenders will also continue to work to ensure that adequate protections remain on our public lands for grizzly bears both within recovery areas and in important areas between bear populations. The long term health and resiliency of the Yellowstone grizzly population will require its connectivity with other populations.


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Contact: Melanie Gade, (202)772-0288

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