Petition aims to remove GYE grizzlies as an endangered species
Cheyenne – On Jan. 11, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon fulfilled his promise to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to remove the population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) from the Endangered Species List.
“This is an extraordinary and monumental success story for species recovery and should be celebrated,” Gordon said. “The GYE grizzly bear is ready to join the ranks of the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican as receiving proper recognition as a thriving, recovered and stable species.”
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the petition was filed with support from Idaho and Montana – the two states included in a tri-state Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Wyoming which recognized the bear’s population and growth beyond suitable range – and affirms the GYE grizzly bear population has been fully recovered since 2003.
On Nov. 30, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved the tri-state MOA to address the court’s concerns regarding delisting the bears.
According to a Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) news release, “The revised MOA recognizes the expanding number of grizzly bears which have grown beyond the edges of the bear’s biological and socially suitable range. With refined population estimates, data shows the population numbers more than 1,000 bears, far beyond all scientific requirements for a recovered, viable population.”
The revisions made to the MOA include the states’ commitments to the long-term genetic health of grizzly bears, which also provides for the translocation of bears into the GYE grizzly bear population to maintain genetic diversity.
The MOA required approval from both Idaho and Montana’s respective wildlife division commissions and directors before Wyoming could file the delisting petition to FWS. In his Jan. 11 announcement of the petition, Gordon shared his appreciation for the efforts and cooperation of Montana and Idaho.
Wyoming’s petition to delist the GYE grizzly bear populations found the bear is neither an “endangered species” or a “threatened” species as determined by five factors.
The first factor is consideration of habitat and range of the bear. Findings by the state note, “Ninety-eight percent of the recovery zone is federally managed land, including all of Yellowstone National Park, as well as portions of the Grand Teton National Park, the Shoshone, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee and Custer Gallatin National Forests.”
Specifically, these areas – as well as a large proportion of suitable habitat outside of the recovery zone – are considered secure suitable habitat, which provides for and allows protections against human activities inside the recovery zone.
The second factor analyzed the overuse of the species for commercial, recreation or education purposes, in accordance with FWS’ 2017 delisting rule. Based on analysis by both the state and FWS, no grizzly bears have been legally removed from the GYE in over 40 years for these purposes. In addition, the state’s outreach and education program has continued to develop to reduce conflict potential and decrease bear mortality.
Third, the state considered the current status of disease or predation, finding no issues related to disease or natural predation have been detected.
Fourth, the 2017 FWS delisting rule concluded, “based on the best available information and on continuation of current regulatory commitment, we do not consider inadequate regulatory mechanisms to constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear now or in the foreseeable future.” The petition mentioned, since the 2017 delisting rule was adopted, Wyoming has considered and adopted further regulatory framework to ensure the future management of the bears.
The final factor took into consideration other natural or man-made factors which might affect the continued existence of the bear’s populations.
“Since the 2017 delisting rule was adopted, no additional science or new information would nullify the FWS’s original findings with respect to genetic concerns; invasive species, disease and other impacts to food supply; or human attitudes toward grizzly bear recovery,” the petition stated.
“Grizzly bears in the GYE are fully recovered and their management is now best entrusted to the experienced and capable institutions of the states,” Gordon said. “After all, Wyoming has invested more than $52 million and dedicated countless hours of WGFD expertise to reach this point.”
Following the submission of the petition, the FWS has 90 days to review the petition. During this time, the petition can be denied or approved for additional review. Further review will provide FWS up to 12 months to analyze the state’s request and make a final decision.
“We’re optimistic FWS will review the petition favorably, and we look forward to working with them on delisting,” Gordon concluded.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.