03-22-07 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Shows Endangered Species Act Success

Americans favor keeping strong safety net for imperiled wildlife

03-22-2007 // Aislinn Maestas

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Yellowstone grizzly bear recovery is the best kind of proof that the Endangered Species Act is effective in protecting wildlife for our children's future," said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO, National Wildlife Federation. "The nation's safety net for imperiled wildlife works, and the American people want it to stay that way."

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Yellowstone grizzlies are being removed from the list of species requiring the intensive care provided by the Endangered Species Act.

"The Endangered Species Act charted the path for the Yellowstone grizzly bear recovery," said Tom France, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Northern Rockies Natural Resource Center in Missoula, MT. "Conserving imperiled wildlife is one of our greatest responsibilities as stewards of the land," France said. "We can all celebrate that, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, our children and grandchildren will be able to see wild grizzlies in Yellowstone, something we could not have promised 30 years ago."

"A key Endangered Species Act objective is to achieve self-sustaining populations in the wild," explained Steve Torbit, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center in Boulder, CO. "That objective has been achieved in Yellowstone, where the recovery goals for number of grizzlies, their distribution and mortality have been met or exceeded," Torbit said.

The 1993 Yellowstone grizzly bear plan defined three specific recovery benchmarks that have all been achieved, qualifying bears for release from the Endangered Species Act's emergency room protections:

  • Population Recovery Goal: The grizzly population must contain at least 15 adult females with cubs. Fact on the ground: The average over the past six years has been 40 female grizzlies with cubs. In 2002, 52 females with cubs were observed. Since the 1980s the population has been growing 4-to-7 percent annually, thanks to efforts to reduce human-caused mortality to grizzlies.
  • Distribution Recovery Goal: Adult female grizzlies with young must occupy at least 16 of the 18 bear management units that comprise the Primary Conservation Area in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Fact on the ground: This benchmark has been met since 1998. In four of the last six years, adult females with young have occupied all 18 units, according to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.
  • Mortality Recovery Goal: Overall bear mortality must be limited to no more than 9 percent of the females and 15 percent of males based on the estimate of the population of bears two years old or older, including an estimate of unreported mortalities. Fact on the ground: This goal has been met since 1996 (although a previous method of calculating allowable mortality was slightly exceeded during 2004 and 2005).

    "The facts of Yellowstone grizzly recovery are conclusive," France said. "The Endangered Species Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do. It's now time to recognize that success and move forward."

    Under the Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan, the core grizzly bear habitat in Yellowstone has been 5.9 million acres called the Primary Conservation Area that consists of National Forest lands (58.5 percent), National Park lands (39.4 percent) and other ownerships (2.1 percent). Within this core area, land management by the Forest Service and the National Park Service is designed to assure that habitat conditions will continue to give grizzly bear needs a priority. These strategies were laid out in a Conservation Strategy and a package of forest plan revisions for the six National Forests surrounding Yellowstone.

    An additional six million acres outside the primary conservation area are designated to be managed to permit continued grizzly bear occupancy and, in some cases, additional population growth and expansion into currently unoccupied areas.

    "A sound foundation is in place to ensure that grizzlies continue to thrive now that they have been released from the emergency room care of the Endangered Species Act," France said. "South of Canada grizzly bears will probably always remain a species that will require extensive monitoring and other conservation efforts to assure that populations remain healthy and viable," France said, "however, this does not mean that they need to remain listed forever."

    Grizzly bears were brought under federal management when they were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. At that time fewer than 250 bears occupied the Yellowstone area. Since then, the coordinated efforts of state and federal agencies working with conservation organizations and private citizens have increased the population to more than 600 bears.

    In addition to the Yellowstone grizzlies, approximately 600 bears occupy habitat in the lower 48, including portions of Glacier National Park and adjacent areas in Montana. Grizzly populations elsewhere south of Canada remain highly endangered. "Now that we have achieved success in the Yellowstone area, we can bring new attention and resources to conserving these other still-threatened grizzly bear populations and creating new populations in areas from which they've been exterminated," said France.

    The National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children's future.

    For immediate release: March 22, 2007

    Doug Inkley, senior scientist, 703-201-1026
    Sterling Miller, senior wildlife biologist, 406-721-6705
    Aileo Weinmann, communications manager, 202-797-6801

    Related Resources
    • Supporting Document
      Facts About Grizzly Delisting (pdf)

      Learn more about the delisting of Yellowstone grizzlies.

    • Supporting Document
      Grizzly Bears and the ESA (pdf)

      Learn more about Yellowstone grizzlies and the Endangered Species Act.

    • Supporting Document
      Grizzly Conservation and NWF (pdf)

      Learn more about the history of National Wildlife Federation's to protect Yellowstone grizzlies.

    • Supporting Document
      General Grizzly Bear Facts (pdf)

      Learn more about Grizzly Bears.

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