The Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved language for a proposed administrative rule that would codify population objectives for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).
The decision on August 9, 2018 sets into motion a public comment period that will run from Aug. 24 through Oct. 26. Public hearings will be held in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, and Conrad. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will explain and answer questions about the proposed population objectives at the hearings and take public comment.
The population objective is for NCDE, which is one of six designated recovery areas for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states. Grizzly bears in the NCDE are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, although they have met their recovery criteria and may be proposed for delisting in the future.
The NCDE subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) released a revised conservation strategy for grizzly bears (found here) earlier this summer. This document summarizes the commitments and coordinated efforts made by the state, tribal and federal agencies to manage and monitor the grizzly bear population and its habitat upon delisting.
The conservation strategy identifies a demographic monitoring area (DMA) that is home to the core population of grizzly bears in the NCDE. The DMA is comprised of the primary conservation area (which includes Glacier National Park and parts of five national forests including the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex), and an area identified as zone 1, which is a buffer zone outside the primary conservation area. The objective in this area, as detailed in the conservation strategy, is continual occupancy by grizzly bears, which will require maintaining good habitat conditions and adhering to population criteria.
FWP’s proposed administrative rule centers on Chapter 2 of the conservation strategy that details grizzly bear population objectives for the DMA.
The population objective for the DMA aims to continually maintain a population size above 800 bears with at least 90 percent certainty. Effectively, this would mean managing for a population of approximately 1,000 grizzly bears in the DMA.
A draft version of the conservation strategy was open to public review and comment in 2013. Since 2013, more research and analysis has provided the IGBC better information about the grizzly bear population and how it has changed. Public and peer comments also helped lay the groundwork for an improved monitoring approach for the NCDE. These changes are incorporated into Chapter 2 of the conservation strategy.
FWP would work with the NCDE subcommittee to incorporate any potential changes resulting from this public process.
Sept. 18 – Great Falls, Great Falls College-MSU, 2100 16th Avenue S., 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 – Conrad, High School, 308 S. Illinois St., 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 – Missoula, Holiday Inn Downtown, 600 S. Pattee St., 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 – Kalispell, Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive, 6:30 p.m.
Comments can be submitted either orally or in writing during the hearings. Comments can also be submitted by mail to Grizzly Bear ARM, Wildlife Division, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail FWPGRIZZLYBEARARM@mt.gov, and must be received no later than Oct. 26, 2018.