The state of the state of Montana petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to delist grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), an area covering approximately 16,000 square miles in northwest Montana. There are approximately 1,100 grizzlies in the NCDE.
The petition to delist outlines that NCDE grizzly bears are within a distinct population, have far surpassed population recovery goals and that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) has the structure in place to successfully take over full management of the species.
“We worked on grizzly bear recovery for decades. We were successful and switched to a focus on conflict management years ago,” said Hank Worsech, FWP director. “We’ve shown the ability to manage bears, protect their habitat and population numbers. It’s time for us to have full authority for grizzly bears in Montana.”
Beyond seeking to delist NCDE grizzly bears, the petition also asks FWS to designate them as a distinct population segment (DPS) and expand that area well into eastern Montana where grizzlies continue to push their way beyond the Rocky Mountain Front where they have not been in more than a century. That expansion since led to increased conflicts with communities, livestock producers and landowners.
Last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department took the first step in the process to address the court’s concerns to delist grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which number more than 1,000.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has steadily maintained that grizzly bears should be delisted so they can be managed by state wildlife agencies.
(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)