Idaho Republicans in Congress renew calls to remove grizzly bears from endangered species list

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Idaho’s congressional delegation has renewed calls to remove grizzly bears from endangered species law protections, citing an increase in livestock killings as evidence that the bear population has rebounded.

U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson, all Republicans, sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. The letter says the Fish and Wildlife Service has not responded to a March petition co-signed by Idaho Governor Brad Little alongside the governors of Montana and Wyoming, advocating for the grizzly bears to be delisted.

Lawmakers said the agency failed to meet the 90-day deadline to respond to the petition and “exacerbated the serious problems currently being experienced in Idaho bear country.”

The letter cited a recent increase in grizzly bear depredation incidents in Idaho’s two northernmost counties, Boundary and Bonner, which are part of the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak protected habitats.

Lawmakers pointed to data outlined in a recent Idaho Department of Fish and Game report that cited 21 incidents of grizzly bear depredation between April and September. Fifteen of the depredations concerned livestock, four beehives and two grain containers. The agency said the average number of depredations over the previous five years was two.

Fish and Game said it captured and killed two grizzly bears as part of this year’s depredations.

“As grizzly bear populations continue to meet and exceed recovery goals, human-bear interactions will also increase,” the members of Congress wrote, asking that the Fish and Wildlife Service devote more resources to management. grizzlies in Idaho.

Grizzly bears in the contiguous United States were first protected as an endangered species in 1975, when their numbers had dropped to several hundred. Since the early 2000s, state wildlife officials and conservation activists have argued over whether the bears should remain protected, as the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear population has been removed and relisted several times. occasions. More recently, Yellowstone bears — which include animals from Montana, Wyoming and eastern Idaho — were delisted in 2017 and put back on sale in 2018.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about 60 bears left in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, which includes parts of northern Idaho and Montana, and at least 44 bears are in the Selkirk ecosystem, which includes parts of northern Idaho, northeastern Washington and British Columbia. .

The agency said grizzly bear populations appear to be stable or increasing in the contiguous United States, while conservation groups have fought radiation and argued the bears need continued protection to establish a population. prosperous.

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