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Conservation Groups Push for Stronger Protections for Grizzlies

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There have been 48 grizzly bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem this year. (Yellowstone National Park/Flickr)
There have been 48 grizzly bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem this year. (Yellowstone National Park/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
December 7, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Conservation groups are urging grizzly bear and habitat managers to take up stronger protections for the species in the Yellowstone region.

Several groups, including the Western Watersheds Project, Sierra Club and Friends of the Bitterroot, sent a letter to the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (YES) of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which released a report in July on how to reduce conflicts between humans and bears. The YES Subcommittee also held a meeting on conflict reduction in October.

Jocelyn Leroux, Washington and Montana director for the Western Watersheds Project, expressed concern.

"We really think that the report relies very heavily on voluntary measures, and it's important to incorporate new tactics as conflicts increase and grizzly mortalities increase," Leroux cautioned.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 48 grizzly bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem this year. The YES Subcommittee did not respond to a request for comment.

The groups say managers need better tactics for addressing livestock conflicts, which is a major source of bear mortality. Leroux noted few livestock remain in the species' primary conservation area, or recovery zone, because third parties have compensated folks to waive their grazing permits there.

"That is a very concrete tactic that has been used and has proven to reduce livestock-grizzly conflict and grizzly mortality," Leroux contended. "Yet that wasn't seen anywhere as a recommendation to pursue more of that outside of the recovery zone."

The groups also claim the use of food storage, portable electric fences and bear spray is useful. Leroux suggested there should be more requirements for this equipment across the region.

"There's kind of haphazard implementation of regulations as it is," Leroux remarked. "So certain things are required of outfitters in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks but are absent throughout the rest of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem."

The IGBC executive committee will hold its winter meeting this week.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Montana contributes to our fund for reporting. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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