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Feds Moving to "Delist" Grizzlies in NCDE

Flathead Area Grizzlies Heading Toward "Delisting"  Federal Managers Release DRAFT Conservation Strategy, Comment Period Ends August 1, 2013.  - June 20, 2013.  The Grizzly Bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) had a long way to go in 1975 when the Endangered Species Act (ESA) caught it in its safety net.  The Great Bear had been subject, historically, to "predator control" hunts, legal hunting, poaching, "control actions" for killing livestock, and other affronts against man.  The bear was listed as "Threatened" 38 years ago... and a LOT has changed since then.
The bruin has gone from virtual pariah to exalted predator, and cherished 'charismatic megafauna'. The beast the color of earth has franchised its name to everything from street addresses, to security services, to sport teams, to cocktail drinks.  If wild nature had the right of 'personhood' and could protect its intellectual property rights, grizzly bears would be a very wealthy constituency.  But that has not been the grizzlies path....
With a certainty, circumstances do change.  The US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) is making preparations to 'delist' the grizzly in the NCDE from the protection it has had over these last 4 decades.  The reason?  The bear has reached the 'recovery' population levels specified for delisting.  The Service believes its numbers are sufficient (they estimate about 1000) to remove the bear from protection under the ESA.
As the first step in the delisting process, the USFWS published in May a DRAFT "Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy".  The public has a 90 day comment period that ends on August 1, 2013.
It is important to emphasize that the Great Bear's delisting in the NCDE is not imminent.  As the document states,
"This Conservation Strategy does not go into effect until all agencies have signed this document and the final rule delisting the NCDE grizzly population has been published in the Federal Register."
This means that bears will be managed under the current regime until all associated management agencies (e.g. the Flathead National Forest, BLM, MFWP) incorporate the conservation strategy in their respective management plans.  There is no foreseeable date for implementation at this point in time.
What You Can Do
The distant future implementation date does not mean that folks who esteem the Great Bear should ignore the Conservation Strategy.  Now is the time to comment.  Here are a few thoughts:
  • A lot more grizzlies will die:  The plan allows griz numbers to fall from current 1000 down to 800.  Griz numbers should be held at current level or allowed to increase.
  • Grizzlies movement between ecosystems is discouraged: The best method to help restore the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot populations is to promote and protect the movement corridors between ecosystems.  The Strategy needs to protect these corridors and promote bear movement, particularly across I-90 west of Missoula.
  • Secure habitat will become vulnerable: History has shown that the US Forest Service will relax its "mandatory" road standards over time.  More open roads mean more bear mortalities.  Current standards should be maintained, all new roads should be temporary in nature and closed and/or reclaimed after use.
Your comments may be sent to the USFWS here.
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