The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the comment period for its proposed delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List. The delisting would affect the roughly 700 bears in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana—the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—with each state managing the bears through human-caused grizzly mortality thereafter. Interested parties have until 11:59 p.m. (EST) on October 7, 2016, to submit their comments, either electronically or via hard copy.
The comment period was reopened after the findings of a new scientific peer review were released in July. Five independent reviewers were hired by a third-party contractor to see if the proposed delisting was feasible. In particular, the lead reviewer, Dr. Dawn L. Johnson, said this about hunting:
The approach taken to manage discretionary mortality, including hunting, is based on the best available scientific information. I am satisfied that the discretionary mortality management plan is adequate and sufficiently detailed such that it should pose no significant threat to the GYE grizzly bear population. Actions that allow relisting are a significant inducement to ensure that no future threat emerges from discretionary mortality. In summary, I am satisfied that the proposed approach is scientifically sound, conservative, and is precautionary in approach.
USFWS first proposed the delisting March 3, 2016, with the proposal going live in the Federal Register March 11. In a March 3 press release, which included the subhead, “Decades of conservation lead to Endangered Species Act success,” the Service said the ESL had succeeded and had more than adequately saved grizzlies from extirpation.
“The recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear represents a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe. “Our proposal today underscores and celebrates more than 30 years of collaboration with our trusted federal, state, and tribal partners to address the unique habitat challenges of grizzlies. The final post-delisting management plans by these partners will ensure healthy grizzly populations persist across the Yellowstone ecosystem long into the future.”
Yellowstone grizzlies were numbered at 136 bears in 1975. Three decades on the ESL has more than quintupled that figure, with the current population estimate at more than 700. Today their range encompasses 22,500 square miles.
If the Endangered Species Act was interpreted literally, the bears would have already been delisted. The ESA requires every decision USFWS makes to be based “solely on the basis of scientific and commercial data available,” which the review provides in spades. Unfortunately, anti-hunters and environmentalists routinely challenge such delistings, delaying or preventing their enactment. A similar effort to delist the Yellowstone grizzly was made in 2007 but was ultimately blocked by court action in 2010.
Click here to view the proposed delisting, submit your online comments, and find more info on the subject. Officials are requesting that previously submitted comments not be resubmitted for this comment period.