US officials to lift Yellowstone grizzly bear protections

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Conservation groups have slammed the decision to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act.

"This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes", said Zinke. Climate change and invasive species have reduced whitebark pine and cutthroat trout populations around Yellowstone, putting several food sources at risk.

Federal officials are taking Yellowstone grizzly bears off the list of "threatened" species, saying there enough bears now to stabilize the population in the years to come. "Defenders of Wildlife is going through the delisting rule with a fine-toothed comb, and we will hold federal and state wildlife and land management agencies accountable for strong stewardship and management of grizzly bears and their habitat post delisting".

Officials said that conservation efforts for the bear, a more than fourfold increase in its population and state policies created to protect the bears show that the delisting is warranted.

In her previous work with polar bears and other carnivores, Cooley said people have a great fondness for bears, and don't want to see them eliminated at all; all they want, she said, is to have an effective means to manage the population as the bears continue to repopulate.

Ranchers, who make up a powerful political constituency in Western states, have strongly advocated delisting grizzlies, arguing the bears' growing numbers pose a threat to humans and livestock. Further, the tri-state agreement incorporated into the Strategy-in which Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming promise to adhere to numerous grizzly conservation commitments-allows any of the states to back out of that agreement upon simply 180 days' notice.

Others are less enthusiastic than Zinke about the bear's future without federal protections. In March 2016, the FWS published a draft rule to delist grizzly bears in the GYE.

For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

"Grizzly bears have met or exceeded recovery objectives since 2003 and have long warranted delisting", said Mr. Mead in a statement.

Some sportsmen's groups also praised the decision. Hunting bears inside Yellowstone would still be banned. Though some in the environmental community have been split over whether the timing is right for delisting, scores of tribal nations and the majority of conservation organizations have come out strongly against the hunting of grizzlies under state management. "Grizzly bears are the slowest reproducing mammal on the planet, and a population decline can take decades to reverse", Endangered Species Coalition field representative Derek Goldman tells Colin Dwyer at NPR. What's 700 pounds and no longer on the Endangered Species list?

In addition to the removal of federal protections, the delisting will also return oversight and management of the Yellowstone grizzly to the state level - meaning it could be shot or hunted if it leaves the boundaries of the park and local laws allow it.

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