Idaho’s federal delegation is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Grizzly Bears from the endangered species list.
Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game filed a petition in March that asked the federal government to delist grizzlies in the Lower 48 states. In the document, they claimed that the bears never should have earned protection in the first place.
The USFWS had yet to respond by Friday (Nov. 25) so U.S. senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson wrote a joint letter demanding that the service’s director, Martha Williams, answer the request.
“Idahoans have a unique interest in the delisting of the grizzly bear due to a recent and significant increase in depredation events within the state,” reads the letter. “Over the past five years, Idaho’s Boundary and Bonner Counties annually experienced two to three grizzly bear depredation events. This year that number was 21.”
While the lawmakers wait for a decision, they’ve asked the service to, at the very least, help the state prevent future human-bear conflict.
Three States Have Petitioned the USFW to Delist Grizzly Bears
2022 saw several efforts to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species act. Officials in Wyoming and Montana also submitted separate petitions asking for the delisting. An estimated 1,000 grizzlies live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In Montana’s Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and around Glacier National Park, lives another 1,000.
Between 70 and 100 roam in Idaho, and the majority live in Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak areas. Those areas are considered part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Large portions of the state have no grizzly bears at all, such as the Bitterroot Ecosystem Recovery Area, which is in the north-central part of Idaho.
The Spokesman-Reviews asked IDFG to verify the number of depredation events written in the letter, but the department has not responded. The Idaho Conservation League has also questioned the facts. However, despite the validity, it did agree that USFWS needs to step in and either delist the species or devote resources to lowering conflict.
Jeff Abrams, a wildlife associate with the ICL, noted that specialists know little about the health of the population, which gives the organization pause. But it will “support” the state within reason.
“We are eager to support state management when and where it’s warranted,” he said. “But we also believe that Idahoans, in general, want assurances that there will be a sound management plan and conservation strategy in place before that happens.”