CHOTEAU, Mont. – In Teton County, Governor Greg Gianforte today emphasized the state’s preparedness to manage the grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).
“After decades of work, the grizzly bear has more than recovered in the NCDE, which represents a conservation success,” Gov. Gianforte said. “As part of that conservation success, the federal government accepted our petition for consideration earlier this year to delist the grizzly in the NCDE, an important step toward delisting. The state is well-prepared to manage this iconic American species.”
To support the federal delisting of the grizzly bear in the NCDE, the governor signed into law Senate Bill 295 this year, carried by Senator Butch Gillespie, R-Ethridge. He ceremonially signed the bill today at an event in Choteau.
“As the grizzly population grows, we need to manage it, but we also need to protect ourselves, our livestock, and our kids – as well as those that come in just to recreate,” Sen. Gillespie said.
In December 2021, the State of Montana submitted its petition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to delist grizzly bears in the NCDE and allow Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to assume full management of this native species.
In February 2023, FWS announced it accepted for consideration the State of Montana’s petition to delist the grizzly bear in the NCDE.
Upon delisting, state laws and administrative rules become the primary regulatory and legal mechanisms guiding management.
The governor also ceremonially signed House Bill 59, sponsored by Rep. Ross Fitzgerald, R-Power, to support ranchers facing increased conflict with grizzly bears and other predators. The bill extends the sunset date for Livestock Loss Board and predatory control funding.
“Senator Gillespie has a bill that compliments the bill I sponsored to have an increase on those registered cattle that get killed by the grizzly bears. We worked together with the rest of the industry to try to make sure that they got compensated for their losses,” Rep. Fitzgerald said.
Grizzly bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. At the time, the population of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states was estimated to be in the hundreds. Today the bear population in the NCDE alone is estimated at approximately 1,100.
FWP monitors grizzly bears in the NCDE with the best available science and a team of dedicated specialists. Although grizzly bears in the lower 48 states have remained under the jurisdiction of the FWS, much of the day-to-day management is done by FWP’s specialists who work with landowners and the public to address conflicts and increase safety and education in bear country.
Tips from FWP for recreating in bear country may be viewed here.