The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the completion of its five-year status review of the grizzly bear population in the lower-48 states and recommend that grizzly bears remain threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The five-year assessment concluded that while there are robust, recovered populations of grizzly bears, the Fish and Wildlife Service recommends retaining ESA protections across the entire species range.
“Although grizzly bear populations in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems are biologically recovered, five-year status reviews must evaluate the status of a species as it is currently listed under the ESA to ensure it is receiving the appropriate level of protection,” the agency said in a press release.
Despite demonstrating success in recovery, the announcement leaves the door open for future reintroduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades ecosystem — despite years of local opposition, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Today’s announcement is disappointing to the communities who have done everything right to support the wildly successful recovery of bears in the Northern Rocky Mountain and Greater Yellowstone populations. Local officials, rural families, and ranchers have continually demonstrated their commitment to protecting wildlife species, including grizzly bears, from extinction — even when this work comes at great personal, financial, and ecological cost,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Director of Natural Resources and Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “As FWS goes forward with protections for the grizzly bear, the agency must work with communities to achieve lasting success, rather than continually moving the goal post and using the ESA as a long-term management tool.”
In the 46 years since the grizzly bear was first listed as threatened, the species has been a remarkable success story of recovery. As populations have increased, so have conflicts with other wildlife, livestock, and humans, making local engagement and local solutions even more critical.
Cattle producers have long felt the outsized impact of federal decisions made under ESA. Because federal government officials are typically far away from the impacts on the ground, the species management decisions they hand down often lack the flexibility and nuance to be workable in each unique community and ecosystem.
Montana Stockgrowers Association has also been a strong voice in pursuing the delisting of the grizzly bear and allowing each state the ability to manage the species. “Grizzly bear populations in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems are biologically recovered and have far exceeded the recovery goals set by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Program.
“In fact, the 2018 Annual Report on the Grizzly Bear Recovery Program states that all three recovery criterion have been met in both the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems. Montana has proven more than capable of managing this species and should have management authority.”