A federal committee assigned to guide grizzlies toward recovery has recommended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begin the process of delisting Yellowstone’s population of bears.
Meeting in Missoula, Mont., the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee unanimously agreed Wednesday to support ending Endangered Species Act protections.
“Now it’s up to the Fish and Wildlife Service to decide how they want to go forward,” Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spokesman Greg Losinski said after the meeting.
Yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies, now estimated at 741 animals, gained federal protection in 1975 when populations crashed after the closure of garbage dumps in Yellowstone National Park. Recovery goals for the population stand at 500 total animals, including at least 48 females with cubs.
Biologists’ understanding of the Yellowstone grizzly population has increased greatly since the early days of protection, Losinski said.
“If we were using the science back when the bear was listed, we wouldn’t know half of what we know today,” he said.
Following the decision Wednesday, the floor was opened up to public comment. According to Losinski, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Louisa Willcox was one of “four or five” people to share her thoughts.
“There is an inexorable drive to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear next year,” Willcox said in an interview. “With today’s meeting, the agencies moved one step closer.
“It’s really all political, it’s really all about state control,” she said. “Damn the torpedoes. Damn the facts. And march forward.”
The Sierra Club also spoke against Wednesday’s decision. More....