From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 5 - April 28, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Opponents fire back at grizzly plan

by Cat Urbigkit

Many western Wyoming residents are opposed to further expansion of the grizzly bear population in western Wyoming and feel that a new report from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department doesn't fairly portray their position, not does it respond to their pleas to limit bear expansion.

These are among the charges against the WG&F's special report on grizzly bear occupancy set forth by the Fremont and Hot Springs county commissions in written comments to the WG&F Commission.

One of the main points of contention is that although WG&F proposed to do away with its "Secondary Conservation Area," leaving only a primary conservation area (the current grizzly recovery zone) in place, the WG&F plan would still allow grizzlies in portions of the Wind Rivers, among other areas.

The Fremont County Commission noted: "Some 5,000 Wyoming people have asked you to manage for a smaller grizzly population confined only to the primary conservation area. There is insufficient popular support for grizzly bears in the Gros Ventre and Wind River ranges and grizzly bears should not be tolerated there."

The Fremont commission referred to the stated purpose of the planning process, which was to determine the "social acceptability" of grizzly bear distribution in Wyoming.

The Fremont County Commission's letter emphasized: "We find it particularly objectionable, despite such united opposition, that [the plan] still recommends that grizzlies occupy the Gros Ventre and northern Wind River ranges. Fremont County especially opposes grizzlies anywhere in the Wind River Range."

The Hot Springs Commission defined the same term to mean "satisfactory to the directly affected community," declaring that the existing proposal failed to meet this benchmark.

Fremont's letter added, "The public is distrustful of grizzly bears outside the primary conservation area."

Fremont County suggested specific wording for the plan, calling for "management of conflict bears to minimize conflicts in areas outside the primary conservation area, and to discourage grizzly bear dispersal and occupancy within the Wyoming Range, Salt River Range, entire Wind River Range, entire Gros Ventre Range and other areas of high conflict potential off national forests in northwest Wyoming."

The Hot Springs Commission went further, suggesting "zero tolerance of conflict bears outside the primary conservation area" and "discouraging grizzly bear dispersal and occupancy within the Wyoming Range, Salt River Range, Wind River Range, Gros Ventre Range and other areas of high conflict potential outside the PCA in Wyoming."

The plan should recognize " that transient bears may stray outside the PCA, the recovered grizzly bear population is intended specifically to occupy only the PCA," according to Hot Springs County officials.

Hot Springs County also proposed to expand the WG&F information and education campaign to include a new component: informing the public "why grizzly bear occupancy in Wyoming must be restricted principally to the PCA (Yellowstone National Park and the adjacent wilderness areas), and the fact that grizzly bears and people may co-exist where and when the human population will accept changes in lifestyle, custom and culture, including acceptance of the risk of property damage, injury and death caused by the grizzly bear."

Members of Wyoming's outfitting and guide community joined with county commissions in opposition to the latest grizzly bear occupancy proposal. Although the WG&F Commission was set to consider the proposal at a meeting in Casper this week, the commission isn't slated to make a final decision until its July meeting.

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