Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Lose Federal Protection After 42 Years


by Julie Fidler, Natural Society:
For the past 42 years, Yellowstone grizzly bears have been protected under the Endangered Species Act. But now the U.S. Department of the Interior, citing a rebound in the bear’s population, says it will end these protections and make the states responsible for tracking the animals’ numbers again. [1]

The agency says the rule, announced on 22 June 2017, will take effect 30 days after it is published.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement:

“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. As a Montanan, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.” [1]

Since the federal protections were instituted in 1975, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population climbed from 136 to roughly 700, according to the National Park Service. The bears, which typically make Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho their home, “have gradually expanded their occupied habitat by more than 50{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528},” NPS says. [1]

n fact, the bears living inside Yellowstone National Park will remain protected, but bears roaming those three states will be managed by wildlife officials. This means that stray bears can be legally hunted, as long as the grizzly bear population remains above 600 for the next five years. Additionally, bears that harm livestock in ranching-heavy areas can be killed. [2]

Some are worried that it’s too soon to pull federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears. Derek Goldman of the Endangered Species Coalition sees a bleak future for the massive mammals. He said in a statement:

“Grizzly bears are the slowest reproducing mammal on the planet, and a population decline can take decades to reverse. Therefore, we have been calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states to develop adequate management plans for grizzly bears before any delisting is finalized. We will closely review the final rule to ensure there are adequate protections for grizzly bears.” [1]

Seven hundred grizzly bears sounds like a lot if you’re planning on hiking through the national forests and hope to make it home in one piece. But that’s a small number when you consider these numbers released by the coalition:

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