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Wyoming Prepares for Grizzly Delisting

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is getting ready to take over management of Yellowstone grizzlies and is accepting public comments until April 14.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is getting ready to take over management of Yellowstone grizzlies and is accepting public comments until April 14.
April 6, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Wyoming is getting ready for the potential removal of Yellowstone grizzlies from the endangered species list. The state has produced a draft management plan, which includes hunting, and is accepting public comments through April 14.

Connie Wilbert, director of the Sierra Club's Wyoming Chapter, said the Yellowstone bears are a big economic driver, and given the state's current fiscal challenges, now is not the time to put grizzlies at risk.

"Every year, visitors to Wyoming spend millions of dollars just hoping to catch glimpse of a grizzly bear," she said. "If we choose to accept this plan, that could have a pretty negative impact on our wildlife-watching economy."

Wilbert said the current plan leaves bears between Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks unprotected, and would allow bears to be completely eliminated in some areas. The state also plans to allow trophy hunting, a move opposed by a coalition of some 40 Native American tribes. State wildlife officials have said their goal is to preserve and sustain an estimated 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

According to an agreement involving Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, grizzly populations could be reduced by more than 100 bears before hunting or agency killings would be reined in. Wilbert said Wyoming should allow the species to completely recover.

"We've actually brought grizzly bears back from, literally, the brink of extinction," she said. "We're pretty concerned that as it is proposed now it really threatens to undermine that great progress that we've made on grizzly bears."

Wilbert acknowledged that conflicts between grizzlies and ranchers are a concern, but noted that there are alternatives to killing. She said the state's plan should include proven coexistence methods, including electric fencing, guard dogs and using range riders to keep track of livestock.

The plan and online comments are available at wgfd.wyo.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY