USFWS officials announced they are reopening public comment on their plan to delist Yellowstone grizzlies from the Endangered Species List.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, USFWS officials made the decision after the states issued their draft management plans and after the plans were peer-reviewed. You can see the state plans and peer review here.
The new comment period will be open for 30 days. USFWS officials ask that people submit new comments, rather than resubmit old comments from the previous comment period. If interested, you can submit your comments here.
Earlier this year, after Montana FWP officials received thousands of comments, USFWS spokesperson Serena Baker said the agency was considering another comment period once Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho submitted plans. From the Chronicle:
“We feel like this is a commitment to transparency,” Baker said. “We wanted to engage the public again.”
Baker said the federal agency still plans to make a final decision on lifting the protections by the end of the year, and that this might be the last chance the public has to officially weigh in on the decision. If a final delisting proposal is released, it would be up for congressional review but not public comment.
The agency announced in March they would seek to delist Yellowstone area grizzlies by early next year at the latest. Conservationists, wildlife advocates, tribal representatives, and other figures have denounced the initiative, saying it’s still too soon to remove the bears from federal protection. From the Chronicle:
Jamie Rappaport Clark, the president of Defenders of Wildlife, issued a statement Tuesday lambasting the push from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the bears, saying the agency is “rushing the process to delist the grizzly bear before it has all the information” on how the bear will be managed once delisted.
“We can’t afford to be careless with this species,” she said.
One sticking point with grizzly advocates is the danger presented to the species by climate change; for instance, a new study links climate change to the decline of whitebark pine, which is a favorite food source for grizzlies.
Advocates say conditions have not improved enough to warrant delisting. Indeed, the USFWS previously delisted the bear in 2007. Protections were reinstated in 2009, however, when a federal judge ruled the agency had not considered “long-term dangers” from declines in whitebark pine and other food sources.