A group of Montanans working to form consensus over the future of grizzly bear management in the state is divided over the role of hunting as grizzly populations expand.
The governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, tasked with guiding the future of the bear's management in Montana, released draft recommendations last weekend.
The exhaustive list of measures includes obtaining more funding for livestock lost to grizzlies, securing pathways where grizzly populations can connect with one another and minimizing conflicts with humans.
But the council couldn’t find a distinct path forward on how to deal with grizzly hunting, should the animal’s “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act be removed. The draft document lists statements both for and against hunting. In meetings in Helena on Monday and Tuesday, the group grappled with how to deal with the contentious issue.
"I think it’s okay that you can’t come to agreement on that," says Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams.
"I think that is still a valuable product from all of your work. So there are going to be places where you may not get to consensus, and identifying those places, I think, helps."
Williams said the state will take into account the council’s recommendations, but will not necessarily institute all of them.
The bulk of hundreds of public comments submitted to the council online have focused on grizzly hunting, and the council is expected to finalize its recommendations by August.