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Critics Warn Delisting Grizzly Could Impact Tourism Revenue


Thursday, April 8, 2021   

JACKSON, Wyo. -- Grizzly bears are slowly recovering in segments of their historic Northern Rockies habitat, but still need protections, according to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessment.

The report comes as Wyoming's congressional delegation pushes legislation to remove the bear from the Endangered Species List.

Matt White, board member of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and a hospitality industry worker, opposes measures introduced by Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo, in the upper chamber and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. in the House.

"This legislation would return management of the bear to the states, which one can argue has not been the most effective manager of wildlife in the past," White asserted.

Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were delisted in 2017, but a court order reinstated protections as Wyoming and Idaho planned public hunting seasons for the bears.

Proponents of delisting say the move would open up landscapes for extraction and protect livestock producers.

Sen. Lummis argued bear populations are maxed out in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and believes state agencies are better equipped to manage bears than are bureaucrats in Washington.

Before hunting and trapping brought grizzlies to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, tens of thousands roamed across western states.

The bear was added to the Endangered Species List in 1975, and today just 1,900 grizzlies remain in parts of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington state.

White noted the move to delist bears also would threaten the state's second biggest economic driver.

"These unique animals that live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bring a vast amount of tourism to our region," White pointed out. "A number of industries rely on that. A lot of us have jobs because of the tourism that comes to the state."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife found while grizzly populations have improved near Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, their numbers remain low in other western states.

The agency did not recommend reintroducing grizzlies in Colorado and California, in part because the bears would not be able to connect with other populations to ensure the genetic diversity necessary for their long-term viability.

Disclosure: Wyoming Wildlife Advocates contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species and Wildlife, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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