Bearly legal

Sweet Grass County Commissioners signed a letter in support for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear delisting from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Thursday, March 2.

The GYE refers to grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park in an area spanning roughly 19,300 square miles through Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. This includes sections of Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway and state, tribal and private lands.

If grizzly bears were to be delisted from the ESA, authority for bear management decisions would be transferred to the states and the current GYE recovery zone would be replaced by a primary conservation area.

This would mean the states would be responsible for monitoring grizzly numbers in that area and for working together to limit bear mortalities by continuing bear identification education, food storage rules, relocating problem bears and promoting bear-aware methods to limit the conflicts between bears and humans.

The minimum number of bears needed for recovery is 500. There are currently around 717 bears in the area, said Bob Gibson, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks information and educational manager for Region 5. He added that while 717 was the number FWP counted, there were definitely a few more bears than that.

For over 40 years, grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone area have been protected by the  Endangered Species Act of 1973. At that time, there were just 136 bears in the region.

To read the full story, pick up the March 9 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.

By Olivia Keith / Pioneer Staff Writer



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