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Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission Approves Draft Grizzly Hunting Regulations

A bill that would ban sport hunting of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states gets a hearing in a U.S. House committee Wednesday. It would extend protections for grizzlies even if they’re removed from the endangered species list.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission Thursday unanimously approved draft grizzly bear hunting regulations. Dan Vermillion, chair of the Commission, says it’s a very preliminary step.

"Just because we approved this framework today doesn’t mean there’s going to be a grizzly bear hunt this fall."

There won’t be any grizzly hunting until after bears in the Greater Yellowstone area are removed from the federal endangered species list.

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed doing that, and it could happen by the end of this year. Legal challenges are expected if the agency does so.

Several Montanans and conservation groups urged the state wildlife commission to either slow down the process for approving hunting, or to not allow grizzly hunting at all.

Bonnie Rice is with the Sierra Club in Bozeman.

"There’s tremendous public opposition to trophy hunting of grizzly bears. We’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars to recover the species, and so we feel any like any kind of a hunting proposal is premature."

Montana’s draft grizzly hunting regulations, or "framework," are required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order take Yellowstone grizzlies off the endangered species list. If that happens, federal management of the bears would switch to Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. All three states are drafting potential grizzly hunting regulations.

People and organizations in favor of grizzly hunting also spoke at Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission hearing. This is Robert Aaronson:

"They need to be hunted, they need to have a fear of man. Now, there’s too many bears. Too many bears," says Aaronson.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says there are between 600 and 1,000 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone area.

Not all biologists agree the population is that high. Some scientists opposed to delisting and hunting say the grizzly population is poised to crash due to climate change.

After today’s vote, Montana’s draft grizzly hunting regulations are up for public comment. They’ll come back before the state fish and wildlife commission in July for potential adoption.

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