USFWS proposes delisting of Yellowstone grizzly bears

By Lauren McDonald

©Dan Dzurisin

Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) are no longer under risk of extinction, according to a USFWS proposal to remove the species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

In a statement issued early last week, USFWS Director Dan Ashe said that decades of stable population trends within the ecosystem warrants delisting of the species. Grizzly bear populations within the GYE have increased from as few as 136 individuals in 1975 to an estimated 700 today, surpassing the recovery goal of 500 individuals. Other recovery goals established by the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan – including a limit on bear mortality per year – have all been met.

Grizzly bears were originally listed as “threatened” in 1975, prompting stringent protections for the species, including a ban on hunting and the creation of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is responsible for population and demographic monitoring and long-term management of the species within the GYE.

If the species is delisted, long-term monitoring and protections will continue through an Endangered Species Act mandated conservation strategy. The strategy outlines habitat restrictions and management actions, including the creation of 5.9 million-acre core area with high levels of habitat security. In addition, U.S. National Forest lands surrounding the core area would provide a “buffer zone” that would retain protections; however, the protections there would not be as strict as those within the core area.

The Wildlife Society issued a position statement on the delisting of grizzly bears in the GYE in 2011. In that statement, the Society supported USFWS’s proposal for delisting, provided all recovery goals are met to ensure long-term population sustainability.

USFWS will open a public comment period on the proposed ruling for 60 days.

Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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