State petitions for grizzly delisting again

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Wyoming is petitioning to have the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies delisted – again – and managed under its tri-state agreement with Montana and Idaho.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the nation’s grizzly bear as endangered in 1975 with an estimated 136 bears. But all population and habitat criteria the FWS have outlined in its grizzly bear recovery plans are met or exceeded since 2003, according to Gov. Mark Gordon’s petition.

Wyoming Game and Fish and other teams have worked diligently to reach these goals with more than 1,000 GYE grizzlies estimated in 2021, he said.

“Grizzly bears in the GYE are fully recovered and their management is now best entrusted to the experienced and capable institutions of the states. After all, Wyoming has invested more than $52 million and dedicated countless hours of Game and Fish expertise to reach this point. We’re optimistic the Service will view the petition favorably, and we look forward to working with them on delisting,” Gov Gordon said Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Recovery success

“The recovery of the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a monumental Endangered Species Act success story,” the petition says. “Removing the GYE grizzly bear distinct population segment from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List) is the obligatory next chapter to this success story.”

Recovery plans called for a minimum of 500 grizzlies with sufficient reproductive females – the most recent population model estimates more than 1,000 grizzlies in the three states’ demographic monitoring area centered around Yellowstone.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies should be delisted as a “species” under the Endangered Species Act and as a “distinct population segment,” according to Wyoming’s petition.

“For far too long, the public debate over grizzly bear delisting gave voice to an opinion thaty the GYE grizzly bear DPS should never be removed from the List. Many expressing an opinion demonized the state of Wyoming as anti-grizzly bear and insinuated that (Wyoming) could not be trusted to responsibly manage grizzly bears if the GYE grizzly bear DPS is removed from the List,” the intro says. “These naysayers could not be more wrong.”

Collaboration among Wyoming officials, agencies and partnerships such as with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team have resulted in a reliable and steady increase from 1975 to 2021, the petition explains.

Next steps

The Secretary of the Interior should determine GYE grizzlies are recovered and no longer “threatened” orendangered,” it says. Documentation of suitable habitat includes federally designated wilderness areas and the DPS is well established, even overflowing to developed areas and private lands.

The FWS has 90 days to review Wyoming’s petition, which could be denied or approved for additional review. The FWS would have up to 12 months for additional review and then make a decision. FWS would publish a final rule to begin the delisting process.

As a precursor to Gov. Gordon’s petition, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho’s wildlife agencies recently amended and signed the Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement to address lower mortality thresholds and other issues after GYE grizzlies are delisted, the petition says.

FWS published final delisting rules in 2007 and 2017; both were overturned in legal challenges and remanded for additional safeguards to genetic diversity and populations that could survive on their own.

As a distinct population segment, GYE grizzlies are neither threatened nor endangered when factors of habitat and range, revised hunting takes, conflict reduction, education, disease, genetic health and regulatiry mechanisms are examined, the petition says.