WASHINGTON D.C. — More frequently is MTN news reporting of Grizzly Bears becoming more prevalent in communities across Western Montana.
“Here in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, the grizzly bear population is growing about 2.3% every year. We have roughly 1,000 grizzly bears in the ecosystem. That equates to about 30 more bears that survive and are added to the population every year,” explained Wes Sarmento, Bear Management Specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Conrad Division.
Those numbers leave ranchers fearful of their lifestyle.
“It's scary. I fear that ranchers are going to get pushed off the landscape because we can't survive with that many bears. It's just not possible,” exclaimed Trina Bradley, Pondera County Rancher, and Executive Director for the Rocky Mountain Front Ranchlands Group. “What's going to happen is as the bears keep reproducing, they're just going to keep pushing further and further out and there's just going to be more bears everywhere and it's just going to make everyone's lives so much harder.”
Grizzly Bears' threat to livestock comes from depredation and torment, causing stress and around-the-clock stewardship of a herd.
The next Farm Bill can help provide sufficient funding to help those living with the bears to build Conflict Management programs.
“We're not going to be out here removing bears from the landscape. What we need to focus on is just keeping them away from where they don't need to be.”
Representative from Montana’s first Congressional District Ryan Zinke says Grizzly management comes back to the way the United States manages its forests.
“We should move to the management stage. The part of the grizzly issue is it starts with habitat in forests. There's nothing under the canopy. There are no grasses, forests are too dense. The species has recovered and they're moving further and further because where they're at, we mismanaged or forced in their habitat.”
That advocacy grows when it comes to other livestock organizations in Montana.
“Montana Stockgrowers firmly believes that we are ready for the Bears to be delisted. We believe that the state is fully capable and ready to manage those grizzly bears and really encourage in this 12-month review that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is doing, that they move forward with de-listing the grizzly bears delisting,” explained Raylee Honeycutt, Executive Vice President, Montana Stockgrowers Association.
MTN News asked Senator Tester if he felt the state was capable of managing the growing Grizzly Bear populations. Tester said he is unsure because the bears have yet to be de-listed as a protected species. He did mention that he helped de-list Wolves in Montana, and a study would be coming out soon to see if the state has adequately managed the population.
“The Grizzly is our Montana state animal. We should be very proud of it. Top of the ‘damn’ food chain. We need to make sure that if they're recovered, we manage them appropriately, and if they're not recovered, we manage them appropriately.”
Currently, nothing appears to be changing with the way bear management is done. The current system appears to be working. Those management practices will not change until the Grizzly Bear is de-listed as a protected species.