Biden declares WAR ON GRIZZLIES: Govt moves to end federal protections for Rocky Mountains bears

Biden declares WAR ON GRIZZLIES: Govt moves to end federal protections for Rocky Mountains bears

By Kunal Dey

WASHINGTON, DC: The Biden administration took steps on Friday, February 3, toward ending federal protections for grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains — a move that could lead to future hunting of the giant mammal in the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Officials from the US Fish and Wildlife Service said they received numerous petitions to delist grizzly bears and gathered “substantial information” indicating the bear population has “improved” and “threats” have been reduced. Considering, they may no longer meet the definition of a threatened species. Federal officials now plan to launch a comprehensive Endangered Species Act (ESA) status review of bear populations in the regions of Yellowstone and Glacier national park regions.

Growing population

The petitioning states want federal protections to be lifted so they can individually manage the population of grizzly bears and have the ability to allow the public to hunt them, according to the Washington Examiner. Earlier applications by Wyoming and Idaho for grizzly bear hunting licenses were blocked when a court ruled in favor of environmental groups. In 1975, four distinct populations of the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Now, the growing population of grizzly bears has led to encroachment and attacks in human dwellings. Last March, a Montana hiker was killed by a grizzly bear outside of Yellowstone National Park. In October, two Wyoming college wrestlers were mauled in another grizzly attack.

Potential delisting may be ‘premature’
It’s worth noting that at least 50,000 grizzlies once roamed the western half of the country. However, the majority of the population was exterminated early last century due to overhunting and trapping. The last hunts in the northern Rockies took place decades ago. Now, there are reportedly around 2,000 bears in the Lower 48 states, with larger populations in Alaska, where hunting is allowed. The species’ apparent expansion in the Glacier and Yellowstone areas has resulted in human-bear conflicts as well as periodic attacks on livestock. Regardless, animal rights activists believe a potential delisting is rather premature. “Delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies is premature,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and the CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. “Equally concerning, delisting would condemn these vitally important animals to the whim of current state politics in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho where they are openly hostile to predator species like grizzly bears.”

Meanwhile, a number of environmental groups want federal protections to continue with no hunting permitted so the bears can freely move where they want. Andrea Zaccardi, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “We should not be ready to trust the states,” as reported by AP. Meanwhile, Derek Goldman with the Endangered Species Coalition said state management would be a “disaster” and that he was happy federal agencies were overseeing states’ laws. Dave Evans, a hunting guide with Wood River Ranch in Meeteetse, Wyoming, said the issue was rather complex. “You have so many opinions and some of them are not based on science, but the biologists are the ones that know the facts about what the populations are and what should be considered a goal for each area,” Evans told the news agency. “If you’re going to manage grizzly bears, there’s a sustainable number that needs to be kept in balance. I’m not a biologist, but I would follow the science,” he added.

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