Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Tuesday that it’s crafting a new statewide management plan for grizzly bears.
Right now, grizzly management is ecosystem-specific. Montana’s home to at least part of four of six of those habitats in the lower 48. That includes a chunk of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and all of the habitat in and around Glacier National Park, known as the Northern Contiental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). The state also houses all of the area through which grizzlies are likely to cross if they connect between those two regions.
"We got things pretty well nailed in the heart of the Yellowstone [ecosystem], in the heart of the NCDE, but what in between? What about the Bitterroot? What about the prairie," asks Ken McDonald, wildlife bureau chief at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
McDonald says a statewide plan will promote better management as grizzlies expand. State biologists say bear populations are growing and that connection is imminent and could boost the genetic health of both populations.
McDonald said recommendations from the governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council will help form the statewide management plan, which could take two to three years to create. That council, composed of 18 Montanans with diverse viewpoints on grizzlies, is holding its third meeting Wednesday and Thursday this week at the University Center in Missoula.