Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) says Monday’s federal ruling to put grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park back on the Endangered Species List will not affect the agency’s work on a new rule that will dictate how Montana will manage grizzlies in and around Glacier National Park if that population is removed from the Endangered Species List.
About 10 conservationists and animal advocates were sipping on their beers and chatting about bears at a Missoula brewery last Wednesday, gearing up for the meetings this week. That was before the federal judge’s decision to restore federal protections to greater Yellowstone grizzlies.
"Alright, I think we’ll get started if you wanna grab a...grab a seat here…" says Mike Bader, former executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and a longtime proponent of grizzly protection, presenting at the gathering, called to generate letters opposed to FWP’s rule.
"I wanna see them recovered across the landscape," says Claudia Narcisco, at the meeting. She’s on the executive committee of the Montana chapter of the Sierra Club. "It’s just, you know, an icon, it's a monarch. It’s a special creature," she continues.
The state rule says FWP will manage grizzlies so the agency is at least 90 percent sure there are 800 bears in a large swathe of land containing Glacier National Park, known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. FWP says this means they’ll be managing for about a thousand grizzlies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they’ll decide on delisting this population – the largest grizzly group in the lower 48 – later this year.
Bethany Cotton is the wildlife program director at Wild Earth Guardians.
"The real goal of the Endangered Species Act and the real goal of conservation is to have sustainable populations into the future that don’t require human intervention. And we’re just not there yet."
Cotton says the grizzly’s habitat needs more protection, the population needs lots more bears to be sustainable and a record number of grizzlies in the area have already died from vehicle accidents this year.
Mike Bader says he expects a good turnout at the Wednesday and Thursday meetings.
"The real issue here is to stand up and take part in the process, and get comments in because the only way that we’re gonna win is if people stand up and speak out for what they want," Bader says.
The Missoula meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Downtown, and the Kalispell meeting is Thursday, Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Flathead Valley Community College. They’ll feature informational presentations from FWP, and the opportunity to voice concern or satisfaction with the proposed rule.
"Let's get on with comments," Bader says.
The public comment period ends October 26.