Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - While sportsman’s groups are celebrating the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Association to once again study the delisting of Grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, environmental groups are troubled by the action.

KGVO News spoke to Andrea Zaccardi, Carnivore Conservation Legal Director for the Center for Biological Diversity on Friday to get her reactions to the decision.

There will be a 90 Day Review to Determine if Grizzly Bears should be Delisted

“We are initially disappointed with the Fish and Wildlife Service's issuance of this positive finding, but we’re not very surprised,” began Zaccardi. “The 90 day finding has a very low bar. It just requires substantial evidence to initiate a status review, and during the status review, the public can submit comments and information, telling the Fish and Wildlife Service whether they think grizzly bears should be removed from federal protection or not.”

Zaccardi explained what the Center for Biological Diversity will be doing in this 90 day study period.

“We will be submitting information on, for example, the aggressive hunting and trapping laws that Montana passed on wolves last year,” she said. “In addition to some of their open dialogue between the governor and the Fish and Wildlife Commission, essentially stating that they are taking an aggressive stance and would like to approve aggressive hunting and trapping for predators in Montana.”

Just How Many Grizzly Bears are Out There?

Zaccardi provided the estimated populations of Grizzly bears in both of the included ecosystems.

“I believe the population estimate in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem is about 1100 Grizzly bears and I think it's around 700 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Grizzly bears have come a long way towards recovery since they gained federal protections in 1975, however, these populations are still isolated from one another which can create genetic issues for grizzly bears.”

As far as the support for delisting Grizzly bears by agencies in Montana, she had pointed criticisms for Governor Gianforte and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.

She says 'The Governor and the Commission Can't Be Trusted'

“I think the Governor and the commission that he has appointed cannot be trusted to manage grizzly bears in a responsible way or even in a scientifically based way,” she said. “I think that they have shown that they pass laws based on their opinions and for their hunting and trapping constituents and that's about it.”

There have been positive statements about the 90 day study to delist the Grizzly bears, as well.

Montana Senate President Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, released the following statement in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s acceptance of Montana’s petition to delist grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems:   

“Grizzly bear recovery has been a conservation success in the areas surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. As we’ve been advocating in the Legislature for years, it’s time to recognize this conservation win, remove grizzly bears from endangered listing in those ecosystems, and return management of the bears to the state of Montana. I’m glad to see this step in the right direction from the federal government, now they need to follow through.”  

Governor Greg Gianforte today welcomed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) acceptance of the state of Montana’s petition to delist grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) in northwest Montana. FWS will begin a comprehensive status review of the grizzly bear in the NCDE. 

“After decades of work, the grizzly bear has more than recovered in the NCDE, which represents a conservation success,” Gov. Gianforte said. “As part of that conservation success, the federal government has accepted our petition to delist the grizzly in the NCDE, opening the door to state management of this iconic American species.” 

Governor Gianforte is an avid hunter, fisherman and sportsman and often shares photos of his successful hunts on his website.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will now begin a status review of these grizzly bear populations to determine whether removal of federal protections is warranted. The Service requests that the public submit comments during the review.

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