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Feds Open Additional Public Comment Period On Grizzly Delisting

A billboard spotted in Cody, WY on June 26, 2016 says "Yellowstone's grizzlies are not trophies."
Eric Whitney
A billboard spotted in Cody, WY on June 26, 2016 says "Yellowstone's grizzlies are not trophies."

A second public comment period on the proposal to remove Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the endangered species list is now open.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service most recently proposed taking the bears off the list in March. That triggered an initial 60-day comment period. The Service says it received more than 290,000 comments during that time.

Since then, new information has come in that the Service will consider, including state management plans from Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Those plans spell out how the states would manage the numbers of bears killed by humans should federal protection be removed. They include outlines for potential grizzly bear hunting seasons in the states, too.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokeswoman Serena Baker says there are also new scientific reviews of the agency’s proposed delisting rule.

"We committed to the public that once we had received the peer reviews on the proposed delisting rule for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, that we would re-open the comment period. And it’s really to give people an opportunity to look at the rule and comment on the rule in light of this new information."

Those who want to keep Yellowstone-area grizzlies on the endangered species list say the Fish and Wildlife Service is over-estimating the bears’ population, and under-estimating threats to their food supplies, like whitebark pine seeds.

Federal wildlife managers are aiming to make a delisting decision by the end of the year.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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