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Environment & Science

Montana signs onto plan to shift management of grizzlies back to states

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Montana’s state wildlife commission has signed onto an updated, state-led management plan for Yellowstone-area grizzlies.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the revised tri-state memorandum of agreement between Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The plan lays out population goals and a management plan should the federally protected Yellowstone grizzly be delisted in the future.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzlies in and around Yellowstone from the endangered species list. A U.S. district court later overturned the delisting, saying the government can’t separate out one grizzly population without considering how it impacts the health of grizzlies in other areas.

The tri-state agreement responds to some of the court's concerns in part by making a commitment to genetic diversity by transferring bears from other areas into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem if needed.

Wyoming signed on to the plan in late November. The state's Game and Fish Commission says it plans to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to once again delist the Yellowstone grizzly after all three states approve the agreement. Idaho is scheduled to review it on Thursday.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that the grizzly bear species as a whole keep its federally protected status, saying there are still too many obstacles to fully recovering grizzly bear populations.

Meanwhile, FWP spokesman Greg Lemon told YPR the state planned to file a petition this week to the same federal agency seeking a delisting of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. This includes bears in northwest Montana in and around Glacier National Park.

On Wednesday Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale introduced a bill in the House to delist grizzlies in both the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems.