Wyoming Stock Growers Association President Says Endangered Species Act Reform Needed

July 13, 2023

As work continues to get the grizzly bear delisted from the Endangered Species List, a lot of folks here in the West would like to see the Endangered Species Act itself reformed. Wyoming Stock Growers Association president Jack Berger from Saratoga says it shouldn’t be so hard to get a species delisted once its fully recovered.

"It shouldn't be so hard to to get species off there," said Berger. "We know it's kind of a broken system. It had good intentions when it started. But what they're celebrating this year with a 2% success rate is something I'm not sure is something to be real proud of. They have removed a few species but it'd be nice to get some reform. It seems like we talk about it over and over and over again, but not much happens, but it needs to happen."

In Big Sky Country, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on amendments to Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) addressing grizzly bears.

At its meeting on Aug. 17, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will make a final decision on draft language proposed by FWP to for new rules and to amend current ARM rule 12.9.1401. The language was drafted after Senate Bill 295 passed during the 2023 Legislative Session and became law. The law clarifies how Montana will manage grizzly bears once they are delisted. The law focuses on human safety, conflict with livestock and genetic exchange. The law also requires the commission to adopt rules prior to delisting. 

The proposed rules look to solidify how FWP plans to manage grizzly bears, particularly as it pertains to mortalities related to livestock conflicts and genetic interchange between the recovery zones. The statute allows for landowners to kills grizzly bears attacking their livestock, but also requires the Fish and Wildlife Commission to set an annual quota for the number of bears allowed to be killed in these circumstances. With these proposed ARM rules, that quota would be set with consideration of bear populations and previous years mortalities.

“We know grizzly bear management continues to be controversial,” said FWP director Dustin Temple. “With these rules, FWP continues to establish solid framework for grizzly bear management to ensure that once they are delisted, grizzly bears in Montana will be thoughtfully managed so as to never need federal protections again. We’ll do this with strong consideration for the lives and property of those who live and work in grizzly bear country.”

Currently, grizzly bears in the lower 48 are listed as threatened under the ESA. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has identified six grizzly bear recovery areas, of which four are located entirely or in part of Montana. The two most prominent recovery areas are the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Both the NCDE and the GYE have surpassed recovery goals and are pending a delisting decision by the USFWS. The USFWS has also indicated that state management plans and regulatory structure are critical in considering whether bears in the NCDE and GYE should be delisted.

To view the proposed language, go to: https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/august-2023-meeting.

Source: Western Ag Network and Montana FWP