Grizzly Bear Proposal Announced
by Wyoming Game & Fish Department
April 8, 2005
Following a comprehensive public input process and the analysis of more than 17,000 written comments from the public, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is recommending six changes to its proposed plan for grizzly bear occupancy in Wyoming, according to a news release Thursday from the department.
The proposed plan, "Draft Grizzly Bear Occupancy Management Proposal Following Delisting," outlines areas considered suitable for grizzly bear occupancy. It is the final piece in the state’s overall plan for managing grizzly bears once they are removed from the Endangered Species List.
"When this last element of the state’s management plan is approved by the Game and Fish Commission, the stage will be set for delisting the grizzly bear and for the state of Wyoming to take over management of the species," said G&F Director Terry Cleveland. "There is a broad diversity of opinion about where we should manage for grizzlies in Wyoming, and that was reflected in the overwhelming number of comments we received on our occupancy proposal. The Game and Fish Department took all of those comments into consideration and is recommending some important changes to the proposal. At this point, we’re confident that the plan strikes a critical balance between managing bear numbers at a level high enough to warrant removal from the Endangered Species List while also trying sincerely to meet the expectations of those who live, recreate, and make their living in areas inhabited by grizzly bears."
The recommendations, along with the analysis and conclusions of the 4-month public comment gathering process on the occupancy proposal, are contained in a special report the G&F released April 7th. The 76-page report also summarizes the public involvement process and written comments the proposal generated.
The report is available on the G&F Web site, G&F offices and public libraries across Wyoming. A limited supply of printed copies is also available by contacting the G&F Policy Office at (307) 777-4600.
The report, including the recommendations, will be presented to the G&F Commission for approval at their April 26 meeting in Casper.
The recommendations include:
--Minimizing human/grizzly bear conflicts through outreach and education, regulated hunting seasons and management of conflict bears in areas of high conflict potential. Actively and consistently discouraging grizzly bear dispersal and occupancy in the Wyoming Range, Salt River Range, southern Wind River Range and other areas of high conflict potential off national forests in northwest Wyoming. Above all else, the revised occupancy document shall reflect the commission’s intent to ensure the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will remain recovered and not become relisted under the Endangered Species Act.
--The original concept of a Secondary Conservation Area will not be part of Wyoming’s grizzly bear occupancy management program. The Secondary Conservation Area was one of three proposed "zones" with differing levels of bear management. The revised proposal contains only two zones: the already established recovery zone and an outer area where the state will have more latitude in how it manages grizzly bear occupancy, density and conflicts.
--The G&F will work with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team to develop a population objective for grizzly bears in Wyoming. The G&F should finalize protocols to establish allowable mortality thresholds and how the thresholds will be proportioned between Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
--Expand ongoing information and education efforts to help people better understand grizzly bear recovery and management in Wyoming.
--Encourage more citizen participation to identify potential causes of human/grizzly bear conflicts and work proactively to address those issues.
The recommendations follow the G&F’s analysis of the 17,542 written comments mailed or emailed to the G&F from Nov. 12, 2004 through Jan. 14, 2005. The comments, the largest response the G&F has ever received in a public involvement process, contained nearly 76,000 individual statements on the proposal.
Wyoming residents contributed 5,168 (29.5 percent) comments. Of those, 4,421 (85.6 percent) came from people living in Fremont, Hot Springs, Sublette, Lincoln, Park, and Teton counties.
All other states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 38 foreign countries were represented in the other 12,374 (70.5 percent) comments.
The public involvement process began Sept. 22, 2004 with a presentation to county commissioners in Cheyenne. Meetings with county commissioners were also held Nov. 12 in Thermopolis and Dec. 2 in Sheridan. A meeting with other stakeholder groups was held in Casper Oct. 22. Eleven public meetings, with 1,043 persons attending, were held across Wyoming from Nov. 15 to Dec. 9.
Grizzly bear occupancy is one chapter of Wyoming Grizzly Bear Management Plan. The plan, which describes data collection, nuisance animal management, information and education efforts and a general description of occupancy management, was approved in February 2002. The occupancy component of the management plan was intentionally left in general terms so it could be addressed in the future when more information was available. That was the purpose of the public involvement process last fall and winter and the publication of the special report.