Montana Grizzly Bear Status Review

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The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission is seeking public comment on a resolution that urges federal wildlife authorities to complete a status review of grizzly bear populations in the northwestern U.S. and for Congress to fund on-going grizzly bear conservation efforts.

The draft resolution asks for commitments from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how many grizzly bear populations there are in Montana, Idaho and Washington by the end of 2008 and from Congress to fund the remaining management actions needed to support recovery and delisting of grizzly bears. The commission tentatively approved the resolution at its Dec. 20 meeting in Helena.

Grizzly bears that inhabit the southern portion of Montana near Yellowstone National Park were removed from the federal endangered species list last year. When the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Yellowstone population, it said it would determine by the end of 2008 whether other grizzly bears in the lower 48 states should be treated as separate populations under the Endangered Species Act or grouped together.

"The Northern Continental Divide and the Cabinet, Yaak and Selkirk populations—which together includes portions of Montana, Idaho and Washington—have been treated as different populations under the ESA since 1975," said Chris Smith, FWP Chief of Staff and former chairman of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. "As bears recover and expand their range, though, it may be more appropriate to treat all the bears in western Montana as one population. Until the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes that determination, we can't adequately plan future recovery efforts."

Smith also said the resolution calls for increased and secure federal funding for monitoring grizzly bear numbers and other conservation efforts. "Restoring grizzly bears under the ESA is a national priority, so it's appropriate that national funding, not just state dollars, cover the costs." said Smith. The resolution suggests full funding for grizzly-bear recovery efforts will cost about $1.6 million in 2008.

The draft resolution is available on the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov. Click "FWP Commission," then "Current Agendas."

FWP will take comment via email at fwpwld@mt.gov, or by mail addressed to: Grizzly Bear Resolution, Director's Office, Montana FWP, P.O. Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620-0701. Comments must be received by Feb. 1, 2008. For information contact your nearest FWP office.