Wyoming state officials are seeking to end federal protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), arguing that the species has fully recovered in the region and should now be managed by the State.
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon (right) announced Tuesday he formally asked the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to remove grizzly bear populations in the area from the endangered species list, noting that the species has been fully recovered since 2003 and that there is no has “no biological or legal reason” to keep bears on the list.
“The GYE grizzly bear is ready to join the ranks of the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican as a thriving, recovered and stable species,” Gordon said in a statement.
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“GYE grizzly bears have fully recovered and their management is now best left to experienced and capable state institutions. After all, Wyoming has invested more than $52 million and devoted countless hours of game and fishing to get to that point,” Gordon added.
According to the petition, state officials estimate that the number of grizzly bears in the area has increased from 136 in the 1970s to more than 1,000 currently.
The USFWS has 90 days to review the petition. If approved, officials may take up to a year to further review and issue its recommendation.
If the state’s request is ultimately granted, state wildlife managers would have authority over the species, which is currently listed as “threatened,” and would likely allow large carnivore hunting.
Conservationists, however, have pushed back against the claim that grizzly bears have fully recovered, arguing there is no science behind it.
“This outrageous request from the governor of Wyoming is the latest attack on animals like grizzly bears by states that view them as targets for trophy hunters,” Andrea Zaccardi, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. .
“Federal officials need to send a clear message by quickly rejecting this request,” Zaccardi said.
The move comes weeks after Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) petitioned the USFWS to delist grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Recovery Area, which covers about 9,000 square miles in northwestern Montana and is home to more than 1,000 bears. Gianforte said populations in the area have also exceeded state-set recovery goals.
Grizzlies were listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. About 50,000 grizzlies lived in the western United States in 1800, but only a few hundred survivors remained in the 1930s due to hunting.
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