CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, following an announcement from Governor Mark Gordon on Thursday, said that the state is seeking to get grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem delisted from endangered species protection.
The state is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If successful, Wyoming would be able to manage grizzlies under state rather than federal regulations that apply to endangered species.
Game and Fish said that the state has invested $52 million in management of grizzlies over the past 46 years. The department says grizzly populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been recovered since 2003.
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“We have proved time and time again that we are experts in wildlife conservation for our state’s valued and iconic species,” Gordon said, cited in the Game and Fish release. “It’s time for grizzly bears to be returned fully to the states for management, as our citizens have supported recovery efforts and seen monumental success.”
Game and Fish says that Wyoming has a grizzly bear management plan in place that would be amended “to recognize the necessary legal requirements to satisfy the Endangered Species Act requirements for post-delisting management.”
Game and Fish said that grizzly bears are expanding beyond the edges of their “biological and socially suitable range.”
“With refined population estimates, data shows [that] the population numbers more than 1,000 bears, far beyond all scientific requirements for a recovered, viable population,” the department said. “With this data, the state intends to adopt new annual management targets and mortality thresholds to ensure the population remains well above minimum federal thresholds.”
“Wyoming also intends to directly address concerns raised by the courts in the 2017 delisting. The State is amending grizzly bear management policies that will adjust the annual management and mortality targets. Wyoming also intends to use and update plans to recognize the updated population model now adopted by grizzly bear experts. Last, the State is committed to the bear’s long-term genetic health and will provide for translocation of bears into the population as needed to maintain genetic diversity.”
Game and Fish said Wyoming’s petition will be filed in coming weeks. The department said the state is also amending management agreements with Idaho and Montana.
“Those agreements, known as the Tri-State MOA, will be reviewed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission in the coming weeks,” the department said.