Monday, December 19, 2016

Grizzly bear management balances bureaucracy and biology

Last week’s gathering of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee vacillated between Robert’s Rules of Order and the Call of the Wild. One moment, a Missoula hotel conference room full of state and federal agency leaders searched for the proper way of expressing a desire to accelerate delisting the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act. The next, a farmer from the Rocky Mountain Front was complaining he couldn’t walk from his house to his shop without confronting a 400-pound nightmare that can outrun a horse. “There's folks that can't let their kids out, because in the windbreak behind the house there's two or three grizzlies,” said David Waldner of the Pondera Hutterite Colony. “It's totally wrong to become a prisoner on your own property because of a grizzly.” For the past decade, this combustible mix of biology and bureaucracy has swirled around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. That’s where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has tried to craft a rule declaring that the roughly 690 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park no longer need federal protection and can be managed by the state wildlife agencies of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The draft rule released last March drew about 650,000 public comments, which FWS analysts must review before producing a final rule. At this week’s meeting, a dozen government agencies unanimously approved a conservation strategy for those Yellowstone bears -- assuming the federal delisting takes place. But while there was some talk in the Holiday Inn Parkside that the final rule could arrive by March 2017, FWS officials said afterward that date was premature. “Those 650,000 comments represent a considerable workload to be done,” FWS spokeswoman Serena Baker said on Friday. “Once those comments are addressed, then either a final rule is drafted and published in the Federal Register, or the proposed rule published in March 2016 could be withdrawn.”...more

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