Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to Consider Amendments to Safeguard Recovered Status of Grizzly Bear Upon Delisting

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator

  • While the grizzly bear is currently protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower 48 states, many consider it to be “recovered” and are actively advocating for the species delisting and subsequent return to state management authority.
  • The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will be considering amendments to the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) Grizzly Bear Demographic Objectives that would create regulatory safeguards for when the NDEC grizzly bear is determined to be recovered and delisted by ensuring that the bear population stays above the minimum recovery level, negating the need for a potential relisting effort.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter in support of the proposed amendments, highlighting that once delisted, the Grizzly Bear Policy calls for the Commission to provide recreational harvest opportunity and utilized hunting as the preferred management method in of balancing grizzly bear numbers with their available habitat, minimizing depredations against private property within or adjacent to grizzly bear habitat, and minimizing grizzly bear attacks on humans.

Why it Matters: According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2022 report titled “Species Status Assessment for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) in the Lower-48 States” the grizzly bear population in the NCDE has made significant strides towards recovery. The proposed amendments to the NCDE Grizzly Bear Demographic Objectives create regulatory safeguards for when the NDEC grizzly bear is determined to be recovered and delisted by ensuring that the bear population stays above the minimum recovery level, negating the need for a potential relisting effort. Furthermore, if approved by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, proposed amendments would lead to increased access and opportunity for future grizzly bear hunting opportunities by safeguarding against foreseeable future attempts to relist the species.

The grizzly bear has been subject to a whirlwind of listings and delisting’s under the ESA over the years due to disagreements over the sustainability of the species in the lower 48 states and ability for the states to effectively manage it. At present, grizzly bear populations far exceed the established criteria for the species to be delisted and should be recognized as the conservation success that it is. However, as with most politically charged charismatic mega-fauna, it is not that simple.

Not overtly publicized, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission just closed a comment period on several amendments to the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) Grizzly Bear Demographic Objectives with the intent to provide management objectives that would ensure the continued recovered status of grizzly bear upon delisting and subsequent transfer of management authority to the State of Montana.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2022 report titled “Species Status Assessment for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) in the Lower-48 States” the grizzly bear population in the NCDE has made significant strides towards recovery. Habitat and demographic factors used to determine ecosystem resiliency were found to be high and the population within the NCDE is estimated to be over 1000 individual bears. In short, the NCDE grizzly bear population is highly resilient and has sufficient viability over the next 30 to 45 years to withstand stochastic events.

The proposed amendments to the NCDE Grizzly Bear Demographic Objectives would create regulatory safeguards for when the NDEC grizzly bear is determined to be recovered and delisted by ensuring that the bear population stays above the minimum recovery level, negating the need for a potential relisting effort. By ensuring the grizzly bear is not relisted, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Fish and the Fish and Wildlife Commission can work within the guidelines of the Grizzly Bear Policy to provide for recreational opportunities, hunting included, in addition to allowing hunting as the primary method of balancing grizzly bear numbers with their available habitat, minimizing depredations against private property within or adjacent to grizzly bear habitat, and minimizing grizzly bear attacks on humans. The proposed amendments would lead to increased access and opportunity for future grizzly bear hunting opportunities by safeguarding against foreseeable future attempts to relist the species.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a letter in favor of the proposed amendments and supported this significant step towards increased access and opportunity for Montana’s sportsmen and women upon grizzly bear delisting.

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