The Yellowstone grizzly bear, a long time poster boy for American endangered species, will be removed from the Endangered Species list according to the Interior Department. The Yellowstone grizzly bear at its lowest point only numbered 150, but the population has since grown to over 700. Proposals to remove the endangered status have floated around since 2007, although declines in food sources kept the federal government from going through with those decisions. “This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of state, tribal, federal and private partners,” said Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior. Once the announcement is published in a federal register, the removal of the status would become legally valid 30 days after.
The elimination of protections provided by the Endangered Species Act means that the management of the Yellowstone grizzly bear would pass over from federal authorities to the states. Without the protection of the act, it would no longer be illegal for the species to be shot if threatening livestock. The states will also be able to enact a hunting season if they find it in their interest to do so. Critics of the move feel that the population is not ready to go through these changes just yet, especially with the unpredictability of the effects of climate change on the area’s ecosystem.
This will not affect the other major population of grizzly bears centered around Montana’s Glacier National Park. However, that population has risen to almost 1,000, so talks are under way to also remove that population from the endangered species list. Yellowstone grizzly bears that remain within the boundaries of the national park will also still be protected by federal authorities, unless they are caught outside the park.