With a growing number of bears, and a growing discussion over eventually not treating grizzlies as a "threatened species", managers from local, state and federal agencies will meet in Missoula this week to discuss the next steps in grizzly bear management.
Interest in the future of the animal has been building following the decision to "de-list" bears in the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem. A discussion is now underway about possibly reducing federal protection for grizzlies on the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
That brought a big crowd of conservations, environmental groups and others to Missoula a couple of weeks ago as the subcommittee for the Northern Divide bears held its regular meeting. Some are challenging the idea the bears are "recovered".
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 45-day comment period Monday on draft criteria for deciding what constitutes a healthy grizzly population in Northwest Montana.
State wildlife managers say they're ready to follow the science, but do so realizing the social aspects of bear management.
"We know the whole world, multiple people from multiple places and cultures and societies care about grizzly bears. We take that seriously. So, if they're de-listed, when they're de-listed, when these targets are met and whatever the courts decide, we want to have a good plan to make sure that bears around for our kids and the grandkids," said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Regional Supervisor Jim Williams. "And that's what this conservation strategy hopefully will be."
In addition to the status of grizzly populations in the Yellowstone and Glacier regions, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee will receive updates on grizzlies in other areas like the Bitterroot during its two day meeting in Missoula this week.
The meeting is being held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown at 200 Pattee Street.
The public comment period will close on January 26, 2018. The public can view the proposals on regulations.gov at Docket number FWS-R6-ES-2017-0057, and comments will be accepted until January 26, 2018.
The comments may be submitted electronically on regulations.gov, or by mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–RX–ES–2017–0057; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.