Montanans can expect to see yet another push this fall to lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies in the state. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it plans to propose a delisting rule for bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem sometime in September. Obviously, conservationists aren’t happy.
“With this move, even more of the nation’s grizzly bears will be at risk of becoming a head on a wall for trophy hunters,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement this afternoon. “Grizzlies still occupy less than 5 percent of their historic range and live in five isolated populations in just four states. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s piecemeal approach to recovery is disheartening and runs afoul of the purpose of the Endangered Species Act.”
Even so, the announcement is hardly surprising. Federal, state and tribal officials have been working on a post-delisting management plan for NCDE grizzlies for years, and FWS tipped its hand during a meeting with Montana’s Environmental Quality Council last fall. We even mentioned the likelihood as far back as 2011.
But the confirmation of FWS’ timeline for pursuing delisting NCDE bears, which includes populations in Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, will only add fuel to an already raging fire. The 2017 decision to remove protections for Yellowstone grizzlies has generated a flurry of lawsuits from conservation groups and tribes and, proposed hunting seasons in Idaho and Wyoming have considered considerable backlash.