Montana Senator Steve Daines is renewing his call for the federal government to take grizzlies off the Endangered Species List in Yellowstone, and the Northern Continental Divide before it ever considers boosting more bear populations.

That includes the Bitterroot, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently taking public input on a recovery plan for the big bears.

Last month, USFWS announced its "notice of intent" to work up an environmental impact statement over recovering the population of grizzlies in the Bitterroot zone, which straddles the Idaho-Montana border.

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This week, as the agency passed an anticipated deadline for ruling on petitions filed by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon to de-list grizzlies, Daines renewed his support for the idea.

In January, I asked him for his reaction to the news the agency was simultaneously looking into a grizzly recovery plan for the Bitterroot.

"Before we have any discussions about expanding grizzlies into additional habitat in Montana we need to de-list the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Rocky Mountain Front and the Greater Kootenai," Daines responded. "Look, the bears are way over their recovery targets. This is becoming a serious safety issue as well as a predation issue for livestock owners."

However, a federal judge in Missoula last year ordered the agency to proceed with the Bitterroot recovery plan, which has been on the back burner for more than 20 years. USFWS is taking comments now and will host two more virtual meetings for Bitterroot residents on Tuesday evening, February 13th, and Wednesday afternoon February 14th.

Conservation groups argue the Bitterroot Mountains are an important "link" to allow bears to travel between Yellowstone and the NCDE.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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Daines wants grizzlies managed like wolves

"That is working. When the feds finally delisted the wolves and let Montanans manage wolf populations. It's working a whole lot better," We do the same thing for grizzly bears," he noted. "So I would not support, not support introducing Grizzlies anywhere else in Montana until we deal with the issue of delisting the bears in the ecosystem where they've already more than recovered."

Comments welcome into March

You can still offer written comments on the plan to bring grizzlies back to the Bitterroot until mid-March at this link.  

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Gallery Credit: KC

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