HELENA — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has recommended that grizzly bears in the continental United States remain classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2017, the Trump Administration’s Department of Interior under Secretary Ryan Zinke sought to remove protections from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears. A federal court decision in 2018 relisted the population as threatened.
The new USFWS recommendation states that while 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 protection shields grizzlies from hunting in the lower 48 states.
Republicans U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale and Sen. Steve Daines disagreed with the assessment by the Biden Administration.
“I strongly disagree with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) decision to continue listing the grizzly bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act,” Rosendale said in a statement. “This decision fails to consider that in areas such as the Greater Yellowstone ecological system recovery criteria has been met. I will continue to work with stakeholders and USFWS to develop a science-based species management plan that considers the risk grizzly bears pose to many Montanans’ livelihoods.”
“The Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed once again what Montanans know all too well—the grizzly bear is continuing to recover nationwide and has fully recovered in Montana’s two largest ecosystems. Merely recognizing the biological recovery of the grizzly bear is not enough. The Biden Administration should follow through on their commitment to follow the science and act upon their career scientists’ own findings by moving forward immediately to delist the grizzly bear in Montana and return species management back to the state,” Daines stated.
Grizzly bears have been protected as a threatened species in the continental United States since 1975. There are an estimated 1,800 bears that live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.