Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed support for removing Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) from the Endangered Species List. This came in response to a letter from Wyoming Governor Matt Mead to Salazar in May asking that the grizzlies be delisted given that grizzly bears have killed four people in the GYA in the past two years and more than $35 million has been spent on grizzly recovery in Wyoming over the last 28 years.
GYA grizzlies gained federal protection in 1975. Since then the population has increased from 200 to more than 600 individuals. Although delisted in 2007, they were relisted in 2009 after legal challenges .
A court-ordered analysis to determine the impacts of the decline of whitebark pine, a food source for the bears, on the grizzly population must be completed before federal protection can be removed. Agencies participating in the analysis agree that the whitebark pine declines do not threaten the future of the grizzly population and once the analysis is completed in 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can begin the delisting process.
Sources: E & E Publishing (Greenwire, July 24, 2012), Casper Star-Tribune Online (July 24, 2012)*Donate to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation