Gov. Mark Gordon has officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

The petition, filed with the support of Idaho and Montana, affirms that grizzly bears, by all measures, have been fully recovered since 2003. The action was criticized by environmental groups.

The governor’s move comes after a September announcement in which Gordon said he would be working to prepare the petition.

“This is an extraordinary and monumental success story for species recovery and should be celebrated,” Gordon said. “The GYE grizzly bear is ready to join the ranks of the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican as receiving proper recognition as a thriving, recovered and stable species.”

State Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik joined Gordon for a news conference back in September when the petition was first announced and expressed optimism in the process.

“This isn’t our first time riding this horse,” Nesvik said. “The bear in the GYE has been delisted by Bush, Obama and the Trump administration, or at least the processes have been initiated by all three of those. I think we’ve got sufficient proof.”

Even if the Fish and Wildlife Service deems after a 90-day check that the delisting is warranted, there would then be a one-year study period before a final ruling would be handed down. 

Grizzly bears were last delisted in 2017 before being re-listed the following year, a day before a hunt for as many as 22 grizzly bears was set to begin.

In December, Montana and Idaho approved a modified Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement establishing new management targets and discretionary management practices to keep the bear population well above the minimum recovery level following delisting and affirmed their commitment to the bear’s genetic health and diversity.

Gordon reiterated there is no biological or legal reason to keep GYE grizzlies listed. In the release, he said the states have applied the best-available population models, and the most current data shows grizzly bear populations have grown beyond the edges of the bear’s biological and socially suitable range. Based on refined population estimates, the data shows the population numbers of more than 1,000 bears in the GYE, far beyond all scientific requirements for a recovered, viable population. 

“Grizzly bears in the GYE are fully recovered, and their management is now best entrusted to the experienced and capable institutions of the states. After all, Wyoming has invested more than $52 million and dedicated countless hours of Game and Fish expertise to reach this point,” Gordon said. “We’re optimistic the Service will view the petition favorably, and we look forward to working with them on delisting.”

The FWS has 90 days to review the petition. At that time the petition can be denied or approved for additional review. If that is the case, the agency can take up to 12 months to further review and analyze the state’s request and come to a final decision.

Environmental groups were quick to condemn the action.

“This outrageous request from Wyoming’s governor is the latest attack on animals like grizzly bears by states that see them as little more than targets for trophy hunters,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is no science to back the claim that grizzlies no longer need protection. Federal officials need to send a clear message by swiftly rejecting this request.”

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