The latest on removing Yellowstone region grizzly bears from federal protections

Olive Rios
June 23, 2017

SALMON, Idaho Grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park will be stripped of Endangered Species Act safeguards this summer, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Thursday in a move conservation groups vowed to challenge in court.

Removing grizzlies as a threatened species was first proposed by the Obama administration in March 2016.

"We already know the grizzly bear has fully recovered in Wyoming", said Barrasso.

Distinct Population Segment (DPS) consists of portions of northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana and eastern Idaho.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has praised the decision to take grizzlies in Yellowstone off the threatened species list, calling it long overdue.

The bears roam both inside and outside the park, and their range has been expanding as their numbers have grown. Today, there are estimated to be 700, more than enough to meet the criteria to be removed from the endangered list, the government said.

"This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners", he said.

Federal officials are taking Yellowstone grizzly bears off the list of "threatened" species, saying there enough bears now to stabilize the population in the years to come.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to turn over grizzly bear management to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by late July. During the intervening 15 months, federal officials evaluated states' grizzly management plans and responded to concerns generated by 650,000 comments from the public, including wildlife advocates and Native American tribal officials who are staunchly opposed to hunting grizzly bears.

"It's tragic that the Trump administration is stripping protections from these magnificent animals just to appease a tiny group of trophy hunters who want to stick grizzly bear heads on their walls", said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The federal agency's rule sets a minimum population of 500 bears for Yellowstone and requires states to curb hunting if the population falls below 600. Climate change and invasive species have reduced whitebark pine and cutthroat trout populations around Yellowstone, putting several food sources at risk.

They said the growth in the bear population was a danger to humans, cattle and other wild animals prized by hunters, such as the elk.

That adaptation has meant switching from nuts to a meat-based diet.

"Added to those threats will be trophy hunting", she said.

"These factors include not only the number and distribution of bears throughout the ecosystem, but also the quantity and quality of the habitat available and the states' commitments to manage the population from now on in a manner that maintains its healthy and secure status", the department said in its news release.

"Grizzly bears are the slowest reproducing mammal on the planet, and a population decline can take decades to reverse", Derek Goldman of the Endangered Species Coalition says in a statement emailed to NPR.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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