Thursday, March 03, 2016

Feds removing protections from Yellowstone grizzlies

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today began removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears, marking a conservation milestone that’s been four decades in the making. The federal agency listed the Yellowstone grizzly as threatened on July 28, 1975 when there were perhaps as few as 136 grizzlies left in the ecosystem. Removing federal protection and turning management over to the states comes as the population stands at an official estimate of 717. “The recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear represents a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act,” Dan Ashe, director of the USFWS, said in a statement. “Our proposal today underscores and celebrates more than 30 years of collaboration with our trusted federal, state and tribal partners to address the unique habitat challenges of grizzlies. The final post-delisting management plans by these partners will ensure healthy grizzly populations persist across the Yellowstone ecosystem long into the future.” Federal and state plans seek to maintain a stable population of about 674 bears — the average number between 2002 and 2014. They would be counted in a 19,279-square mile Demographic Monitoring Area with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks at the core. Gov. Matt Mead responded immediately. “We have been working for several years with the Secretary of Interior and the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service one-on-one, along with our staffs to get to this decision,” he said in a statement. “The proposed rule is to delist grizzly bears. Grizzly bears are recovered and have been for more than a decade. It is a great success story.” Hunting likely to follow In addition, removal of ESA protection would allow some “discretionary mortality,” including hunting, that would be regulated by the three neighboring states. The federal government through the USFWS concerns itself with the population-level view of the species and overall annual mortality. It will leave it to states to decide which bears might be hunted where and when outside the two national parks. Federal officials said they’ve put national park leaders in touch with state game agencies to work out how park boundary bears that are popular tourist attractions might be protected once they leave Park Service sanctuaries...more

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