Gov. Matt Mead

Gov. Matt Mead said last Thursday in Cody that he speaks to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Secretary David Ash regularly urging delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act.

“He and I are trying to find a path to get the grizzly bear delisted,” Mead said.

Ash, Mead, numerous state and federal agencies and many citizens have the same concern on their minds.

It has been nearly two years since the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommended to Washington that the Yellowstone grizzly be delisted because it has recovered under legal and scientific definitions.

But U.S. Fish and Wildlife has maintained silence as Wyoming, Montana and Idaho officials who share Park grounds have clamored for grizzly management to be restored to the states.

As many others have, Mead cited scientific studies indicating Yellowstone grizzly numbers have far surpassed the court-established minimum of 500 bears to represent recovery.

The 757 grizzlies counted in the area was reached through an old methodology. Using a different method, officials have said more recently there are 1,100-1,200 grizzlies in the region.

Mead was in Cody speaking about the start-up of a conservation and Endangered Species Act initiative he said hopefully will lead to cooperation from different government agencies and private groups to help keep species off the list.

People are frustrated that even after years of study and steps taken to improve and monitor conditions, lawsuits continously thwart delisting decisions.

“There ought to be a way to do it,” Mead said. The process never seems to lead “to the finish line.”

Mead said he has “constant discussions” with Ash about what can he done with the theme, “It is time to get the grizzly bear delisted.”

Fear of lawsuits derailing the entire matter once it appears resolved is probably part of the Fish and Wildlife hold-up preventing issuing of a draft rule.

“The safest alternative is to do nothing, but that is short-sighted,” Mead said.

Lee Livingston, a Cody outfitter, who spoke as a panelist at the workshop session on the Initiative, said “by all accounts conservation worked. But for some reason the Endangered Species Act doesn’t allow for success. It is time for the Endangered Species Act to write the final chapter.”

(Lew Freedman can be reached at lew@codyenterprise.com.)

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