At its meeting on Aug. 17, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will make a final decision on draft language proposed by FWP to for new rules and to amend current ARM rule 12.9.1401. The language was drafted after Senate Bill 295 passed during the 2023 Legislative Session and became law. The law clarifies how Montana will manage grizzly bears once they are delisted. The law focuses on human safety, conflict with livestock and genetic exchange. The law also requires the commission to adopt rules prior to delisting.
The proposed rules look to solidify how FWP plans to manage grizzly bears, particularly as it pertains to mortalities related to livestock conflicts and genetic interchange between the recovery zones. The statute allows for landowners to kills grizzly bears attacking their livestock, but also requires the Fish and Wildlife Commission to set an annual quota for the number of bears allowed to be killed in these circumstances. With these proposed ARM rules, that quota would be set with consideration of bear populations and previous years mortalities.
“We know grizzly bear management continues to be controversial,” said FWP director Dustin Temple. “With these rules, FWP continues to establish solid framework for grizzly bear management to ensure that once they are delisted, grizzly bears in Montana will be thoughtfully managed so as to never need federal protections again. We’ll do this with strong consideration for the lives and property of those who live and work in grizzly bear country.”
Currently, grizzly bears in the lower 48 are listed as threatened under the ESA. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has identified six grizzly bear recovery areas, of which four are located entirely or in part of Montana. The two most prominent recovery areas are the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Both the NCDE and the GYE have surpassed recovery goals and are pending a delisting decision by the USFWS. The USFWS has also indicated that state management plans and regulatory structure are critical in considering whether bears in the NCDE and GYE should be delisted.
To view the proposed language, go to: https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/august-2023-meeting.
Since the ARM process is separate from the Fish and Wildlife Commission process, comments will be taken in person at the Aug. 17 commission meeting and at subsequent public hearings to be scheduled to gather feedback on the proposed rules.