The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed this past March to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The Service claims that the grizzly bear population in this area has recovered enough that it no longer needs to be on the endangered species list. The population was first placed on the list in 1975 under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, the Fish and Wildlife Service says the population has increased in size from 136 to an estimated 700 and has tripled its occupied range.

What could happen as a result of the proposal? The bears could be hunted in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho (with certain regulations in place). Montana has already drafted its hunting plan if the proposal becomes finalized. The states have also begun to develop a coordinated plan in keeping with the regulations imposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service that would accompany the proposal. The plan includes the monitoring of the grizzly population, a ban of hunting female bears and their cubs, and a ban on hunting if the overall population drops below 600.

Despite the evidence the Fish and Wildlife Service has cited, many are concerned that the proposal comes too early and that the grizzly bear is still in danger and should not be removed from the list and stripped of its protective status. A group of 58 scientists, (Dr. Jane Goodall included), have signed a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep grizzlies on the list, stating that climate change and other human-caused factors are continuing to threaten the grizzlies’ primary food sources. “Their future isn’t secure yet, because they face so many threats to their survival,” says Goodall, in a video message presented in Washington, D.C.

A 60-day period after the proposal’s release allowed the public to comment on the proposal and its supporting documents. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now currently reviewing those comments. //