FWS files ESA removal
On Feb. 3, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) completed the initial review of three petitions filed to remove the grizzly bear from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and the lower 48 states.
Petitions with FWS
On Dec. 17, 2021, the state of Montana filed a petition to designate and delist a NCDE distinct population segment (DPS) of the grizzly bear. On Jan. 21, 2022, FWS received a petition from the state of Wyoming to designate and delist the GYE DPS of the grizzly bear.
The GYE occurs in portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. On March 9, 2022, FWS received a petition from the state of Idaho to delist the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states.
FWS found the first two petitions present substantial information indicating the grizzly bear in the NCDE and the GYE may qualify as their own DPS.
FWS found the third petition to remove ESA protections for the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states does not present substantial, credible information to warrant further action.
If the removal of the GYE grizzly bear is warranted, management authority will be given to each of these three states.
Grizzly bear recovery and conservation are complex issues, requiring coordination among federal agencies, states, Tribes and other stakeholders.
According to FWS, “The FWS appreciates the states historical commitments and partnerships to recover bears, particularly through conflict prevention efforts which have been effective in reducing human-caused mortality.”
The release continues, “However, the impact of recently enacted state laws and regulations affecting these two grizzly bear populations is of concern and needs to be evaluated. We will fully evaluate these and all other potential threats and associated state regulatory mechanisms in detail when we conduct the status assessments and make the 12-month findings.”
“This is a positive step, and I thank FWS. Wyoming’s petition, filed early last year, shows after 46 years and over $52 million dollars of investment by Wyoming sportsmen and women, the population of the bear is far above long-established recovery goals,” said Gordon. “In addition, Wyoming has an established framework to provide adequate protection and management of the bear in the future. I trust FWS will continue to use the best scientific evidence, and I hope Wyoming will soon manage this species as part of our treasured wildlife population.”
Currently, Wyoming has a grizzly bear management plan in place. The plan will be amended to recognize the necessary legal requirements to satisfy the ESA requirements for post-delisting management.
Gordon continued, “Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Director Brian Nesvik and I will be discussing timelines and next steps with the FWS and senior Department of Interior officials in the next several days.”
According to Gordon, there is an expanding number of grizzly bears beyond the edges of the bear’s biological and socially suitable range. Refined population estimates show population numbers are more than 1,000 bears – far beyond scientific requirements for a recovered, viable population.
“WGFD stands ready to manage this population with robust public involvement and the best science at a moment’s notice,” said Nesvik. “WGFD has a strong track record of managing grizzly bears during the times they have been delisted in the past.”
FWS will now initiate a comprehensive status review of the grizzly bear in the NCDE and GYE based on scientific and commercial data to inform a 12-month finding to determine whether the removal of ESA protections would then be initiated through a separate rulemaking process, with additional public notice and comment.
The public can play an essential role by submitting relevant information, particularly new scientific and commercial data published since the 2021 five-year status review. In-depth status review and information can be submitted through regulations.gov, docket number: FWS-R6-ES-2022-0150, beginning Feb. 6.
The 90-day finding and petition review forms can be found by visiting www.federalregister.gov/docu-
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.