Volume 2, Number 52 - March 27, 2003
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Grizz strategy gets nod from commission
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department issued a press release Tuesday indicating that a significant step was taken toward state management of grizzly bears this week, but what also happened was that the WG&F Commission voted 6-1 to approve a document it had not read, at the urging of department staff.
With two new commissioners on board, the commission held a conference call Monday morning to discuss signing the grizzly bear conservation strategy, which has been in the final stages of development for several years now and is reportedly a 70-page document in its final form. Although the commission met last week, it decided to hold the conference call after department personnel explained that the conservation strategy couldn't be released to them because then it would have to be released to the public as well. Department personnel then prepared a summary of the document for the commissioners to review prior to Monday's conference call.
The conservation strategy is the umbrella document that will provide advice for grizzly-bear management in the three states once the bears are removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The document references the state grizzly-bear management plans, which are appended to it. The strategy also contains a component, which specifically addresses a primary conservation area - currently the recovery zone - that calls for conservative management in the Yellowstone grizzly bears' core habitat.
In addition, the conservation strategy contains grizzly bear demographic, habitat and conflict management prescriptions to aid coordinated management of the population across the several jurisdictions it occupies.
During Monday's call, commissioners decided to approve the strategy sight unseen and declined to allow any public comment, although several members of the public had dialed in to listen to the deliberations.
WG&F Director Brent Manning and other department personnel urged the commission to go ahead and approve the unseen strategy in order to avoid any further delay in approval of the multi-state document. Only Commissioner Doyle Dorner of Evanston balked and refused to be hurried into approving something he hadn't fully examined.
WG&F officials then announced Tuesday: "A critical step in achieving state management of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will be reached March 26 when officials from the wildlife agencies of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and federal land-management agencies approve and sign the Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Area."
"With the official approval of each state in the Yellowstone area, the process has taken a significant step in the quest to return grizzly bear management to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana," said Manning.
The signing will take place by Manning and his Idaho and Montana counterparts Wednesday. The directors will meet at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spring meeting held during the annual North American Wildlife Conference in North Carolina.
With this step, Manning says the groundwork is laid for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare the status change package to remove the grizzly bear from the threatened species list.
The conservation strategy satisfies the FWS's need for "adequate regulatory mechanisms" in order for the delisting process to move forward.
"Thanks to the public's robust input during the comment process in 2000, the three states will have a workable strategy that will lead to almost everyone's common goal: returning grizzly bear management to the states involved," Manning said.
Soon after the signing, the complete conservation strategy will be posted on the Interagency Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Committee's Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r1/wildlife/IGBC.
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