USFWS Press release
DENVER — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing a public scoping period to consider options for restoring grizzly bears to the Bitterroot ecosystem. The Service will assess the potential impacts of proposed restoration options in an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act. The public, states, Tribes, the scientific community, and other stakeholders are encouraged to review the scoping notice and provide valuable input to shape the project’s scope in its early stages.
The Bitterroot ecosystem is one of the six identified grizzly bear recovery zones in the lower 48 States. Although individual grizzly bears have been documented in the Bitterroot Ecosystem, no established population — defined as having two or more breeding females or one female with two consecutive litters — currently exists in this recovery zone. Grizzly bears are listed as a threatened species in the contiguous U.S.
In November 2000, the Service issued a final EIS, record of decision, and a rule under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act, outlining plans for reintroducing grizzly bears to the Bitterroot ecosystem. The Service has not taken subsequent steps to reintroduce grizzly bears to the Bitterroot ecosystem.
In early 2023, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruled the Service unreasonably delayed implementing certain actions in the November 2000 ROD, including creating a citizens advisory committee. The court ordered the Service to supplement the EIS and, if warranted, issue a new ROD and 10(j) rule. The Service chose to complete a new EIS and ROD based on the best available science and information because the science and information used to inform the original action are over two decades old. Under the court’s order adopting the Service’s proposed timeline, the Service must publish a final EIS and ROD by November 2026.
The grizzly bear restoration EIS in the Bitterroot Ecosystem will analyze alternatives for restoration by examining potential effects on the human environment, addressing management approaches for bear-human conflicts, assessing considerations for grizzly bear connectivity between recovery zones, and incorporating other relevant information regarding impacts. As part of this process, the Service will identify several actions to consider, including a no-action alternative.
The Service is initiating a 60-day public comment period to gather input on the scope of the EIS beginning January 18, 2024, through March 18, 2024; comments can be submitted through regulations.gov, docket number FWS-R6-ES-2023-0203.
Additionally, the Service is hosting a series of virtual public information sessions during which the public can learn more about this process. These meetings are for informational purposes only. Official comments should be submitted through regulations.gov.
- Monday, February 5, 2024, at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time [Register here]
- Tuesday, February 13, 2024, at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time [Register here]
- Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time [Register here]
For information, documents, and ongoing updates about this project, please visit the Service’s Bitterroot Grizzly Bear EIS webpage athttps://fws.gov/BitterrootEIS.