Congressman Zinke Reacts to The USFWS Delisting Grizzly Bears from ESA Protections
Today, Western Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke reacted to the completion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s initial review of three petitions received to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for grizzly bears in the lower 48 States.
“The time to delist the grizzly is long overdue. As Secretary I followed the science and guidance of wildlife experts and delisted the Greater Yellowstone Grizzly only to have it overturned by a radical activist judge,” Zinke said. “I will be working with the Montana and neighboring delegations to introduce legislation to delist the bear and restore state management to our wildlife.”
The Service found that petitions from Montana and Wyoming present substantial information indicating the grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) may qualify as their own distinct population segment and may warrant removal from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife.
The Service will now initiate a comprehensive status review of the grizzly bear in the NCDE and GYE based on the best available scientific and commercial data available to inform a 12-month finding. If the 12-month finding results in proposing one or more DPSs for delisting, the Service will consider those in the context of the ongoing recovery for the rest of the population in the larger listed entity, and any proposed rule would have additional public notice and comment.
In 2017, as Secretary of the Interior, Zinke delisted the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear from ESA protections.
Tester Statement on Grizzly Bear Delisting
(U.S. Senate) – Following the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announcement of a twelve month study period on delisting grizzly bears in Montana, United States Senator Jon Tester issued the following statement:
“Defending Montana’s outdoor heritage and wildlife is critically important to our way of life – and that starts with following the best available science. After decades of collaborative work between federal, state, local, and Tribal groups, we’ve seen grizzly bears in Montana come back from the brink of extinction, and that’s something to celebrate. FWS took a step in the right direction today, which is a testament to the strength of grizzly populations in Montana. Now state government needs to develop science-based management plans to ensure success, and I’ll hold the Biden Administration’s feet to the fire to provide support.”
Daines Praises Decision to Move Forward with Delisting Process for Grizzly Bear
Follows Governor Gianforte’s Petition to Delist
U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today issued the following statement after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its plan to move forward with the delisting process for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).
“This is great news for Montana. The science is clear—it’s time to delist the grizzly bear. I’m glad to see Fish and Wildlife Service listen to science, Montanans, and Governor Gianforte to move forward with the process to delist the grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems,” Daines said.
Governor Greg Gianforte filed a petition December 2021.
During his time in the Senate, Daines has been pushing for the administration to delist the grizzly bear in Montana.
In March 2022, Daines and Congressman Matt Rosendale pushed the Biden administration to respond to Governor Greg Gianforte’s petition to delist the grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
In November 2021, Daines called on Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senate Democrats to take action on his bill, the “Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021,” to return grizzly bear management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem back to Montana.
In July 2021, Daines continued his push for DOI Secretary Haaland to listen to the science and delist and return management of the grizzly bear back to Montana.
In April 2021, Daines urged DOI Secretary Haaland to commit to following science and delist the grizzly.
In March 2021, Daines introduced the “Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021,” which would remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List, prevent further obstruction in the courts, and return management of the species back to the hands of Montanans.
State Efforts to Remove Federal Grizzly Protections Move Forward
Delisting Would Ignore Key Science, Threaten Trophy Hunts
From the Center for Biological Diversity
BOZEMAN, M.T.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a finding stating that removing federal protections from grizzly bear populations in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems “may be warranted.” Removing Endangered Species Act safeguards could pave the way for the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
“It’s disheartening that the federal government may strip protections from these treasured animals to appease trophy hunters and the livestock industry,” said Andrea Zaccardi, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s carnivore conservation program. “After approving the all-out slaughter of wolves, Montana officials have proven they can’t be trusted to make science-based wildlife decisions. Our nation’s beloved grizzlies deserve better.”
Today’s finding advances petitions from Montana and Wyoming to remove protections for “distinct population segments” in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems. The Northern Continental Divide ecosystem population occurs in and around Glacier National Park in Montana. The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem population occurs in parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
For grizzlies in both areas, the Fish and Wildlife Service found that bear population numbers have “improved.” The federal agency warned, however, that “the impact of recently enacted state statutes affecting these two grizzly bear populations is of concern and will require careful consideration.”
Montana passed new anti-predator legislation and regulations that imperil grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife. One new law allows for nearly unregulated killing of grizzly bears “threatening” livestock, with no definition of what constitutes such behavior. Further new laws allowing the hound hunting of black bears and baiting and snaring of wolves also endanger grizzly bears and other nontarget wildlife.
Removing federal protections also would allow states to greenlight trophy hunting of grizzly bears. When grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone briefly lost federal protections in 2017, Wyoming immediately approved an extremely aggressive hunting season. And the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission recently adopted regulations making it legal to hunt grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide if they are delisted and certain population targets and mortality thresholds are met.
“Grizzly bears have come back from the brink since receiving federal protection in 1975, but the recovery of these imperiled bears still has a long way to go,” said Zaccardi. “Rushing the removal of federal safeguards threatens to undo decades of work to recover these bears.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service will now begin a status review of these grizzly bear populations to determine whether removal of federal protections is warranted. The Service requests that the public submit comments during the review.
A third petition, filed by Idaho, sought to delist grizzly bears across the lower 48 states. The Fish and Wildlife Service today denied that petition. Grizzlies currently occupy approximately just 6% of their historical range in the lower 48 states.
SENATE PRESIDENT STATEMENT ON PROGRESS WITH GRIZZLY DELISTING
HELENA, Mont.— Montana Senate President Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, released the following statement in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s acceptance of Montana’s petition to delist grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems:
“Grizzly bear recovery has been a conservation success in the areas surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. As we’ve been advocating in the Legislature for years, it’s time to recognize this conservation win, remove grizzly bears from endangered listing in those ecosystems, and return management of the bears to the state of Montana. I’m glad to see this step in the right direction from the federal government, now they need to follow through.”
ROSENDALE APPLAUDS DECISION TO REVIEW GRIZZLY BEAR DELISTING
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Matt Rosendale (MT-02) applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services decision to review the status of the grizzly bear’s listing under the Endangered Species Act.
“Fish and Wildlife Service accepting our petition to delist the Grizzly Bear marks a shift in the way we think and talk about the Endangered Species Act,” said Rep. Rosendale. “Rather than continuing to place burdensome, unnecessary restrictions on citizens, businesses, and private property, the Grizzly Bear’s recovery can now be responsibly managed using modern science-based methods. The current subjective bureaucratic mandates do not help the Grizzly Bear and certainly do not help Montana.”
This follows the review three petitions filed to delist the bear, one filed by Governor Greg Gianforte on behalf of the state of Montana. Rep. Rosendale has been a long-time advocate of delisting the grizzly bear – in 2021, he introduced the Science-Based Grizzly Bear Management Act in the House. He also joined Senator Steve Daines on a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Director, requesting that the Biden administration to respond to Governor Greg Gianforte’s petition to delist the species.