Montana’s Republican congressmen are asking the Interior Department to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.
In a letter sent Thursday to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale joined Idaho and Wyoming’s congressional delegation asking for more information on how the Biden administration will handle grizzlies, including a timeline on when the two populations will be returned to state management.
The letter comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a recommendation at the end of last month that the species as a whole retain its status as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
The authors of the letter write that grizzlies are an Endangered Species Act success story; the animals received federal protections in 1975, and today biologists estimate the Yellowstone and Glacier populations contain more than 1,000 bears each — well over the numbers officials set for recovery.
The USFWS decision to continue protections without a path to delisting left officials “scratching their heads,” the letter says.
In an interview earlier this month, Jodi Bush, Montana project leader for the USFWS, said the agency’s recommendation is for the entire species, not individual subpopulations, and decisions about whether to delist those subpopulations are still up in the air.
“We have a new administration who are trying to get their hands around all things grizzly bear.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester didn’t sign the letter. But in an emailed statement, he said “The grizzly populations in Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide are recovered, and the folks at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks have shown they are more than capable of managing the Yellowstone grizzlies.” He wrote that he’ll continue to push for measures like nonlethal predator management to help get the species delisted.
As a member of Congress, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland co-sponsored legislation that would permanently protect grizzlies.
Opponents of delisting say the species still faces threats from development, recreation and habitat fragmentation, and holds spiritual value to tribes across North America.