US government officials say grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park region are no longer threatened, and that they will lift protections that have been in place for more than 40 years.
While Yellowstone's status as a national park will continue to protect grizzlies within the park's boundaries, bears outside the park may be hunted with permission from the governments of Idaho, Montana or Wyoming.
The grizzly population in the Yellowstone area - which includes parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho - is estimated to be around 700, a drastic increase from the meager 136 bears roaming the park in 70s. While those inside Yellowstone and nearby Grand Teton National Park will remain protected, wildlife officials in the surrounding states - Montana, Idaho and Wyoming - will now manage grizzlies that stray outside.
"This is good news for the Yellowstone grizzly and good news for the region's ranchers".
"The Service is derailing the recovery of this iconic species by prematurely stripping the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears of federal protections". "Grizzly bears have met or exceeded recovery objectives since 2003 and have long warranted delisting", Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) said.
A grizzly bear cub searches for fruit by an apple tree a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont.
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The Service's determination that an isolated population of 700 grizzlies is fully recovered and no longer in need of federal protections is absurd.
Federal resources used to prepare the final rule on Yellowstone's bear population will be shifted to planning for lifting protections for the bears living in the Northern Continental Divide, Hogan said. "Stable population numbers for grizzly bears for more than a decade also indicate that the GYE is at or near its carrying capacity for the bears". "However, we are concerned over how grizzly bears and their habitat will be managed after de-listing".
They said the growth in the bear population was a danger to humans, cattle and other wild animals prized by hunters, such as the elk. "As a Montanan, I am proud of what we've achieved together". Activists successfully stymied efforts in 2007 when the Fish and Wildlife Service last tried delisting the animals.
"As we look ahead, our goal is to ensure both grizzly bears and this bedrock wildlife law aren't victims of short-sighted politics", said the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
Removing grizzlies as a threatened species was first proposed by the Obama administration in March 2016. Confirmed sightings are taking place in locations where they have not previously been seen for more than 100 years. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks drafted its own management strategy for the bears a year ago, including the controversial consideration of trophy hunts, in anticipation of a final rule.
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