A special committee that has been studying potential Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting procedures on Monday will feed its report to the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee for consideration.
The Jackson Hole YES session on Oct. 3 is another step in a series of events that could lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the bear from Endangered Species Act Protection as it has suggested.
Some believe a final recommended plan could be endorsed in mid-November in Cody.
“Maybe by the time we get to Cody,” said committee member Loren Grosskopf of the Nov. 14-16 meeting. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”
The committee’s comprehensive report discusses the conservation strategy to be implemented by Wyoming, Montana and Idaho if states take over management jurisdiction of the bears.
“The only purpose of the meeting is to approve the conservation strategy,” said Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish chief warden and head of the wildlife division.
Taken into account during deliberations for the report were summaries of 296,000 public comments and the review of nearly 1,000 pages of delisting documents, including exhibits and addendums.
“This is the last missing piece for the feds to go forward with the delisting,” said Grosskopf, also a Park County commissioner. “At least as far as we know.”
Opponents of delisting the grizzly from federal oversight have also mobilized to be heard ahead of the meeting.
This weekend, in a two-pronged program, 50 federally recognized Native-American tribes are scheduled to sign a treaty agreement supporting protection of the grizzly on the basis of the animal being sacred and because of its significance as a religious and spiritual symbol.
One signing is set for Brocket, Alberta, Friday in the council cham-
bers of the Piikani Nation. A second signing is scheduled for Sunday at Jackson Lake Lodge in Jackson Hole, the day before the YES meeting.
Also, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition issued a statement supporting the delisting program concerns of U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
Grijalva sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife questioning if the states will reduce the bear population and fail to connect Yellowstone bears with Northern Rocky Mountains bears.
“We’re concerned and disappointed that federal and state agencies haven’t answered the fundamental question about how grizzly bears will be managed,” said Caroline Byrd, executive director of the coalition. “Will the Service turn its back on a 40-year success story in the final days of this administration? Instead of rushing to complete a flawed delisting process, the Service should pause and take the time to get it right.”
Grosskopf has been part of the six-member YES sub-committee that for several months has essentially rewritten guidelines in existence since 2007 for the management team to apply to preserve the bear for the future.
The presentation will be made Monday and then the full YES committee will study the matter. Grosskopf hopes final approval will be given at the Cody meeting
“That’s the hope,” he said. “We’re almost there.”
Fish and Wildlife has kept a watchful eye on the Yellowstone grizzly since the early 1970s when it was determined the bear was in trouble.
During the intervening decades, as the bear population expanded in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, the grizzly was studied, monitored and even nearly delisted once before.
Current estimates place the population size at 750 to 1,000 bears, up from a low of 136 in the 1970s.
Since the federal agency proposed delisting months ago, certain criteria have been set with the aim of ensuring a healthy bear future.
Some are statistical guidelines for state management, including establishing a minimum number of bears, a minimum number of bears with young, evidence that bears are occupying 16 of 18 territory units where they roam, and setting mortality limits that cannot be exceeded in a year.
This report suggests “how we do it,” Grosskopf said. “This is basically a guiding document.”
Grosskopf said the steering committee put in uncounted hours to come up with a proposal and much of that dealt with public comments.
“Hopefully,we’ve addressed all that,” he said.
Anyone coming forward now simply to say just don’t delist without explanation, will have no impact, he said.
“If not, tell us why,” Grosskopf said.
Early in 2016, Nesvik said he felt there was a good chance the Yellowstone grizzly would be delisted by the end of this year. He is not sure that will happen, but still believes it is possible.
“From what we’re told by the Service, we’re on track,” Nesvik said. “I sure hope so, but I’m not going to make any predictions.”