Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and Brian Nesvik, Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), discussed the state’s plan to manage the grizzly bear population of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) during a a press conference in the state capital on September 7. 15.

During the press conference, Gordon commented, “In 1975 there were only 136 bears in the GYE. Today, they are over 1,000.

Therefore, the governor is requesting that the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) remove the GYE grizzly bear population from federal protection.

“It is time for the grizzly bears to be fully returned to the states for management, as our citizens have supported recovery efforts,” Gordon commented.

By the numbers

“Grizzly bears, in all respects, have been fully recovered since 2003,” Gordon explained. “With refined population estimates, the data shows that the number of 1,000 bears exponentially meets all of the scientific requirements for a recovered, once endangered species.”

Combined with this data, the state intends to adopt new annual management goals and new mortality thresholds to ensure an appropriate grizzly bear population, which will meet federal requirements, according to Gordon.

“The state is committed to ensuring the long-term genetic health of bears and will translocate bears into the population as needed to maintain genetic diversity,” Gordon said.

Chronology of the petition

“The petition will be filed in the coming weeks,” Gordon said. “There are legal requirements and deadlines for [FWS] review and decisions.

Several months ago, Gordon asked the WGFD and the Wyoming Attorney General to assess all options to find a practical and efficient way to bring management back to the state of Wyoming.

“This is a wonderful day of celebration, not only for grizzly bears, but for the state of Wyoming,” commented Gordon, noting throughout history that the Wyomingites have proven to be experts in wildlife conservation. the most valued and emblematic species of the State. “The current GYE grizzly bear population has resolved biologically.”

Gordon continued, if challenges arise in seeking federal protection from the FWS, the state of Wyoming is committed to overcoming those challenges with additional policy changes.

Gordon also shared that changes to the current management plan will be made to meet the legal requirements to meet federal post-deregistration standards.

Nesvik made further remarks on the state’s petition, saying, “Once the petition is filed in the coming weeks, the FWS has 90 days to make a decision and find that there is substantial evidence that the state petition is justified. ”

If substantial data is obtained, the FWS has a full year to complete the status review.

The determining factors will be based on “biological parameters, state regulatory mechanisms and potential threats to the population,” Nesvik said, noting that final decisions will be made after the 12-month target date, and that the FWS final delisting notice and rule will transfer management. grizzly bears in the state of Wyoming.

“Right now, the state has no way of proactively managing these bears and controlling their expansion,” Nesvik continued. ”

Sister states

In addition to federal protections for the state of Wyoming, Gordon is proactively working with Idaho and Montana to change management agreements. In 2016, the Tri-State Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) was put in place to protect the grizzly bear population of GYE.

“This agreement will be reviewed by the WGFD Commission in the coming weeks,” commented Gordon. “Wyoming has a strong track record of successfully managing other large species, such as black bears, pumas, and gray wolves.”

Gordon said, “As of September 15, we have known that there is an increasing number of grizzly bears that are biologically suitable for an appropriate population. It’s a marked day of celebration, not just for grizzly bears, but for Wyoming. ”

Management cost

Nesvik explained that all grizzly bear expenses come mainly from hunting and fishing licenses in the WGFD budget.

“Currently, we allocate about $ 2 million per year to all grizzly bear management activities,” adds Nesvik.

According to Nesvik, if a bear hunting season were implemented as a result of this petition, it would result in a small amount of revenue, similar to the elk management process.

In the future, all income generated from license sales during a bear hunting season will go to the WGFD Commission for allocated expenses.

Final thoughts

Gordon concluded, “Thank you to Wyoming ranchers, hunters and everyone who lives, works or recreates in the ever-expanding bear country who have been partners over the past decades to reach this point. I am grateful for the hard work and decades of effort on behalf of the grizzly bear.

In addition to thanking the Wyomingites, he especially thanked the WGFD for their interest in this species.

“Today is a victory in the history of conservation of this species in Wyoming and indeed for the world,” said Gordon.

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send your comments on this article to [email protected]