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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


March 23, 2007

Contacts:          Barb Perkins, 303/236-4588
                          Valerie Fellows, 202/208-3008
                           Dave Harrelson 703/358-2361 

Grizzly Bear Recovery Efforts Recognized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall announced the sixteen recipients of the Service’s 2006 National Recovery Champion award. The Recovery Champion award recognizes outstanding contributions of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and their partners toward efforts aimed at recovering threatened and endangered species in the United States. 

Receiving these awards were the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, and the Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, Dr. Chris Servheen.  On March 22, the Service announced that it is removing the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from its status of ‘threatened’ on the U.S. list of threatened and endangered species.  Four other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states have not yet recovered and will continue to be protected as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. 

Grizzly bear recovery has required cooperation among numerous Federal agencies, State agencies, non-governmental organizations, local governments, and citizens.  In 1983, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) was created to coordinate management efforts and research actions across multiple Federal lands and States within the various Recovery Zones.  Its objective was to change land management practices to more effectively provide security and maintain or improve habitat conditions for the grizzly bear.  In 1986, the IGBC issued habitat guidelines that have been the guiding tenets of grizzly bear habitat management in the lower 48 States.   

In 1983, the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (YES), a subcommittee of the IGBC, was formed to coordinate efforts specific to the Yellowstone area.  Members of the YES include representatives from the Gallatin National Forest, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, Custer National Forest, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Bridger‑Teton National Forest, Yellowstone National Park, Montana Bureau of Land Management, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Grand Teton National Park, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Service, and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. 

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) was created to provide detailed scientific information for the management and recovery of the grizzly bear in the Yellowstone area.  Currently, members of the IGBST include scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, the Service, Academia, and each State game and fish agency involved in grizzly bear recovery.  The IGBST has made the Yellowstone grizzly bear population the most studied in the world.  This degree of science-based decision making is unprecedented and is a model of how cooperative conservation can benefit species.  The IGBST also has developed protocols to monitor grizzly bear populations and some important habitat parameters.  These parameters have been used in demographic and habitat management.   

Central to overseeing and coordinating this cooperative conservation effort has been the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator.  During the last 25 years, Dr. Chris Servheen has worked tirelessly to achieve effective conservation measures in the United States and Canada.  His recovery responsibilities include all five occupied recovery ecosystems across the northern Rockies.  Working with State agencies, Federal agencies, State and county governments, Native American tribes, private citizens, landowners, and non‑governmental organizations, Dr. Servheen has effectively promoted a sound vision for recovery of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. 

Collectively, this cooperative conservation program represents one of the most compelling endangered species success stories since the inception of the Endangered Species Act.  Since listing in 1975, the Yellowstone Ecosystem population has increased from approximately 200 to 300 individuals to its current estimate of approximately 500 animals.  This population has been increasing since the mid 1990s at 4 to 7 percent per year.  The range of this population also has increased dramatically as evidenced by the 48 percent increase in occupied habitat since the 1970s.  Yellowstone grizzly bears continue to increase their range and distribution annually and now occupy habitats they have been absent from for decades.   

“The Recovery Champion award not only recognizes the exceptional conservation accomplishments of the honorees, it also provides the public with a unique opportunity to learn about endangered species conservation,” said Hall.  “These Recovery Champions are extraordinary conservationists dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation’s wildlife and ensuring that future generations of Americans enjoy the natural treasures we experience today.” 

The 2006 Recovery Champion honorees’ contributions to the conservation of our natural heritage benefit a broad range of endangered and threatened plants and animals.  From manatees to mussels, Service employees and their partners have been working to recover our nation’s most imperiled wildlife.  Habitat protection, public awareness campaigns, and the development of cutting-edge technology to achieve captive breeding success are just a few examples of this year’s Recovery Champion honorees’ efforts. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. 

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