Public meetings on how the state will deal with the growing number of grizzly bears around Glacier National Park if they’re removed from the endangered species list begin this week.
Starting Tuesday, Sept. 18 in Great Falls, the meetings are about a proposed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks rule saying Montana aims to maintain a population of at least 800 bears in what’s known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a swath of land home to the largest grizzly population in the lower 48.
Grizzlies in the area have been federally protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1975, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they’ll likely make a decision on removing those protections by the end of the year.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) spokesman Dillon Tabish says the meetings are not meant to address the question of whether or not to delist the bear, and are not related to a separate population of grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park, whose federal protections are currently tangled up in federal court.
"Are we comfortable with a minimum of 800 grizzly bears on the landscape? Is that too many? Is that not enough? We really, genuinely want to hear Montanans' input on that question and that question alone."
The meetings will feature presentations on the grizzly population by state biologists and the opportunity for Montanans to voice their opinion on the rule.
After Great Falls, FWP will hold meetings in Conrad Wednesday, and in Missoula and Kalispell next week.
The public comment period ends October 26. See meeting times below.
- Sept. 18 – Great Falls, Great Falls College-MSU, 2100 16th Avenue S., 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 19 – Conrad, High School, 308 S. Illinois St., 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 26 – Missoula, Holiday Inn Downtown, 600 S. Pattee St., 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 27 – Kalispell, Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive, 6:30 p.m.
Comments can also be submitted by mail, to Grizzly Bear ARM, Wildlife Division, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701, or by e-mail to FWPGRIZZLYBEARARM@mt.gov.