Wyoming, Idaho And Montana Sign Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy

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A critical step in achieving state management of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population was reached March 26 when officials from the wildlife agencies of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and federal land management agencies approved and signed the Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

The conservation strategy is the umbrella document that will provide advice for grizzly bear management in the three states once removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The document references the state grizzly bear management plans, which are appended to it. The strategy also contains a component, which specifically addresses a primary conservation area – currently the recovery zone – that calls for conservative management in the Yellowstone grizzly bear’s core habitat.

In addition, the conservation strategy contains grizzly bear demographic, habitat and conflict management prescriptions to aid coordinated management of the population across the several jurisdictions it occupies.

The signing of the 70-page document culminates a decade of work by state and federal biologists and an intensive public comment period in 2000. The public comment process also included input from a 15-member tri-state governors’ roundtable, with each state represented by five members.

“With the official approval of each state in the Yellowstone area, the process has taken a significant step in the quest to return grizzly bear management to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana,” said G&F Director Brent Manning.

The signing will take place by Manning and his Idaho and Montana counterparts Wednesday. The directors will meet at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spring meeting held during the annual North American Wildlife Conference in Winston-Salem, N.C.

With this step, Manning says the groundwork is laid for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare the status change package to remove the grizzly bear from the threatened species list.

The conservation strategy satisfies the USFWS’s need for “adequate regulatory mechanisms” in order for the delisting process to move forward.

“Thanks to the public’s robust input during the comment process in 2000, the three states will have a workable strategy that will lead to almost everyone’s common goal: returning grizzly bear management to the states involved,” Manning said.

The complete conservation strategy will be posted on the Interagency Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Committee’s Web site.