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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 20, 2001

Mark Pfeifle/John Wright 202-208-6416
Hugh Vickery 202-208-1456
Sharon Rose 303-236-7917, x415

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE PROPOSES TO WITHDRAW PLAN
TO REINTRODUCE GRIZZLY BEARS INTO BITTERROOT ECOSYSTEM

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to concentrate recovery efforts and resources on existing grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states and to withdraw a plan to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Bitterroot ecosystem of Idaho and Montana.

"The grizzlies deserve the best opportunities for their populations to thrive and prosper and I am fully committed to the recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "Building support from state leaders is an important element to any potential partnership of this size and scope. I am committed to ensuring the support of the states, local communities, and all interested stakeholders as we move forward with our grizzly bear recovery efforts."

There are approximately 1,100 grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, in five separate populations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington. The Service will continue actions to conserve and recovery grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem, where a grizzly population of 400 to 600 bears is increasing two to four percent annually, and in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, where grizzly populations are stable or increasing and number 400 to 500 bears. The Service will also continue to focus recovery efforts and methods to preserve and increase populations in the Selkirk ecosystem where there are 40 to 50 bears; the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, with 30 to 40 bears; and the Northern Cascade ecosystem where there are approximately 5 bears. Recovery programs include activities such as improving management of grizzly bears on public lands, genetic research, population monitoring, public education, and implementing the recovery plans for each population.

The Service spends approximately $450,000 annually on grizzly recovery, and employs three full-time biologists dedicated to grizzly recovery.

In November 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Record of Decision for a Final Environmental Impact Statement to reintroduce bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

The Service is now reevaluating this Record of Decision and is proposing a "No Action" alternative. The public will have 60-days to comment on the proposal before a final decision is reached. If the No Action alternative is selected, grizzly bears would not be reintroduced into the Bitterroot ecosystem.

The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to carry out recovery actions for listed species such as the grizzly bear. In doing this, the Service has the discretion and flexibility to identify the highest priority recovery activities while operating within its budget.

The grizzly bear is listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act. An estimated 50,000 grizzly bears lived in the contiguous United States prior to European settlement. Grizzly bears have been eliminated from approximately 98 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states. Grizzlies are not listed as threatened in Canada and Alaska where populations remain more numerous (10,000 - 11,000 in British Columbia and 30,000 - 35,000 in Alaska).

The preferred alternative selected in the Record of Decision in November, called for establishment of a nonessential experimental population of grizzlies in the Bitterroot ecosystem under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. The State of Idaho has sued to block the plan.

The Service will publish a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register within the next few days. Public comments are requested and will be accepted for 60 days after the Federal Register publication date. Comments should be sent to: Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 5127, Missoula, MT 59806 or electronically mailed to fw6_bitterroot@fws.gov. More information on grizzly bears can be found on the Service's website: mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency committed to conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations.

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries and conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands. It also oversees the Federal Aid initiative that invests hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

News and Information about Grizzly Bears in the FWS Mountain-Prairie Region

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