U.S. Dropping Protection for Yellowstone Bears

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 4, 2016 began removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears, marking a conservation milestone that’s been four decades in the making.

The federal agency listed the Yellowstone grizzly as threatened on July 28, 1975, when there were perhaps as few as 136 grizzlies left in the ecosystem. Removing federal protection and turning management over to the states comes as the population stands at an official estimate of 717.

“The recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear represents a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act,” Dan Ashe, director of the USFWS, said in a statement. “Our proposal today underscores and celebrates more than 30 years of collaboration with our trusted federal, state and tribal partners to address the unique habitat challenges of grizzlies. The final post-delisting management plans by these partners will ensure healthy grizzly populations persist across the Yellowstone ecosystem long into the future.”

Federal and state plans seek to maintain a stable population of about 674 bears — the average number between 2002 and 2014. They would be counted in a 19,279-square mile “demographic monitoring area” with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks at the core.

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