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Public Comment On Yellowstone Grizzlies Reopens After Wolf Ruling

Grizzly bear. File photo.
Grizzly bear.

Federal officials say they'll review the recent lifting of protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears in light of a court ruling that retained protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that it is seeking public comment on the court ruling given the possible implications for an estimated 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Those bears lost their protections July 31, allowing future trophy hunts in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

On August 1, a federal appeals court in the wolf case said wildlife officials needed to give more consideration to how a species' loss of historical habitat affects its recovery.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman, Steve Segin, says the agency wants the public to weigh in on whether the court’s wolf court opinion could affect the grizzly bear final rule and, "What, if any, further evaluation the Service should consider regarding the status the remaining grizzly bear populations and loss of historic range in light of the service’s decision."

A coalition of tribal and conservation groups has filed suit to restore protections for Yellowstone’s bears.

The Center for Biological Diversity is one of them. The group’s senior attorney, Andrea Santasier, says more public comment is always good.

"But the way that they’re doing it here – they’re not staying the delisting rule, they’re not retracting it, they’re just asking for comments after the fact as to whether their rule is legal or not. I think what’ they’re definitely doing here is trying to paper over fatal flaws that they have in that rule."

Like wolves, grizzly bears have recovered well in some areas but remain absent from much of their historical range.

The comment period will close January 5.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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