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Federal government will lift protections of Yellowstone grizzly bears

25 June 2017

After 40 years on the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is releasing protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that the recovery of Yellowstone's grizzlies is one of the nation's great conservation success stories. "We will closely examine this decision, and are prepared to defend the grizzly if necessary", he said.

Pacelle said the Humane Society and a coalition of other advocacy groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve federal protection for the Yellowstone bears.

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Some conservationists are anxious the Yellowstone grizzly is on a genetic island, isolated from other bear populations.

The move to allow hunts has been met with opposition from wildlife advocates and Native American tribal officials.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead echoed Zinke's pleasure.

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The move, which was first proposed by the previous administration of President Barack Obama past year, will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the federal register.

Idaho state officials say it's too early to discuss a possible grizzly bear hunting season in their state. In Yellowstone, bears make use of some 265 food sources, from the roots of tiny wildflowers, to moths and ladybugs to elk. "One school of thought says that because the bears" populations have plateaued, that means they've hit the carrying capacity, or the number of animals the habitat can sustain, and are in good shape.

Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity says the population of grizzly bears at Yellowstone are still falling due to invasive species and climate change that put the animals' food sources at risk. Further, the tri-state agreement incorporated into the Strategy-in which Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming promise to adhere to numerous grizzly conservation commitments-allows any of the states to back out of that agreement upon simply 180 days' notice. States have already made it clear that without endangered species protections, immediate steps will be taken to reduce the number of bears in the area, including through trophy hunting- a move that will reverse grizzly bear recovery in the region. A treaty opposing hunting of the bear has been signed by 125 tribes. In 2013, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team determined that the reduction in whitebark pine nuts did not significantly impact grizzly bears and again recommended delisting. An icon of the American West, their numbers were driven to as low as 136 before the Yellowstone population and others in the Lower 48 states were listed in 1975. "Therefore we have been calling on Fish and Wildlife Service and the states to develop adequate management plans for grizzly bears before any de-listing is finalized".

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"The government's campaign to remove protections provided by the Endangered Species Act overlooked important conservation issues and denied public comment on key points", Preso said. The delisting applies to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Distinct Population Segment, which covers portions of northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana, and eastern Idaho.

Federal government will lift protections of Yellowstone grizzly bears