Federal officials will be hosting a meeting in Bozeman April 12 to answer questions about the Yellowstone grizzly bear population.
Specifically, officials will be explaining their decision to delist Yellowstone grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Serena Baker (speaking to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle), the meeting will give the USFWS “an opportunity to kind of layout what our thought process was.”
The meeting will happen at the Holiday Inn on 5 East Baxter Lane and will comprise an open house (from 2 to 4 p.m.) and a public hearing/comment period (from 5 to 8 p.m.). From the Chronicle:
Baker said USFWS biologists and other staff members will answer questions during the open house. They will also have posters and maps explaining the Endangered Species Act and scientific data the USFWS believes supports its decision to remove the protections.
Yellowstone grizzly bears have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. In early March, the USFWS announced it was seeking to remove those federal protections because it considered the population to be recovered, a move that had been expected for months.
State officials applauded the proposal, while grizzly bear advocates and environmental groups said it was too soon to remove the protections.
“We think this proposal could result in less bears in less places than we have today,” said Bonnie Rice of the Sierra Club.
When the species was listed in 1975, the population in Yellowstone was estimated at 136 bears. Recent counts say there are at least 717 bears in the region, though some more optimistic estimates say there might be as many as 1,000.
Population growth leveled off in the early 2000s, which USFWS says is a sign that the region is at carrying capacity, meaning it can’t support any more grizzly bears.
Further, the Chronicle reports, there is an ongoing comment period for the rule, which will stay open until May 10.
We previously reported on the proposed USFWS plan, which would involve mortality caps in a roughly 19,000-square-mile area that includes Yellowstone and slices of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Environmental groups have raised concerns that opening Yellowstone grizzly bears to hunting would only put them back in decline—to pre-1975 levels or worse.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission held a similar meeting earlier this month to address public concerns for the plan.