The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday it no longer plans to propose removing the population of grizzly bears in and around Glacier National Park from the endangered species list this year.
"We were on track to try and have a proposal, or at least have an evaluation of recovery and a potential proposal, out by the end of the calendar year," says Hilary Cooley, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, at an annual meeting Tuesday on grizzlies in what’s known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, or NCDE.
She says a federal judge’s September opinion on last year’s delisting of a different population of bears in and around Yellowstone put a wrench in those plans.
"That’s put things on halt for both ecosystems. So we need to take a little time and figure out what this means, how to move forward."
It’s estimated that there are more than 1,000 grizzlies in the NCDE. It’s the largest grizzly population south of Canada. So far this year, 51 grizzlies in the NCDE have been killed or moved to other ecosystems – the highest number on record.
Even though delisting plans are stalled, Cooley says she believes grizzly populations in both the NCDE and Yellowstone have recovered.
All grizzlies in the lower 48 have been listed as “threatened” since 1975. Judge Dana Christensen’s September decision said the government can’t delist one subpopulation of grizzlies without focusing on how that move might impact other populations of bears.
Cooley said the government has until December 21 to appeal that decision.
Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians says she was pleased to see the government’s delay.
"I think we have a real opportunity to take a step back and think about bear management across the landscapes."