So it's a pretty remarkable increase and one that the Interior Department says should be celebrated. An icon of the American West, their numbers were driven to as low as 136 before the Yellowstone population and others in the Lower 48 states were listed in 1975.
Opponents of removing the Yellowstone grizzly's protection have stated concerns that climate change will negatively impact its population in the future and that these bears don't possess the genetic diversity required to adapt on their own, according to the New York Times.
Officials said that conservation efforts for the bear, a more than fourfold increase in its population and state policies created to protect the bears show that the delisting is warranted. Today, that number has grown to 700 bears. "We just don't think it's science based".
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State hunting frameworks have been approved by USFWS as part of the strategy, but that doesn't mean that hunting will begin immediately. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks drafted its own management strategy for the bears previous year, including the controversial consideration of trophy hunts, in anticipation of a final rule.
"We are in no rush at all", Wolf said. That will permit the states to allow hunting, provided the regional grizzly population stays above 600 over the next five years, as well as the killing of bears that harm livestock in a ranching-heavy area.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead also praised the decision. "The key now is to ensure that we continue strong management that allows grizzly bears to continue to expand their range".
Federal resources used to prepare the final rule on Yellowstone's bear population will be shifted to planning for lifting protections for the bears living in the Northern Continental Divide, Hogan said. And some conservationists have argued that placing their conservation back in the hands of states, which can use hunting as a form of population control, is an unnecessary risk.
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"I'm sure there will be legal challenges which will be unfortunate since the goals and numbers have been reached and surpassed to delist the species", Hamilton continued. A federal court ordered otherwise, because of the loss of whitebark pine trees, which are a food source for the bears. And the grizzly bear Conservation Strategy developed by numerous agencies notes the "unpredictability of future climate and habitat changes".
However, the announcement is already drawing fire from tribal leaders, who complain they weren't consulted, and conservation groups who are already promising to sue to block de-listing.
The Yellowstone bears' delisting follows another recent legislative decision that abolished other types of protections for bears in Alaska. Those conflicts often result in bears being killed.
In late 2016, biologists estimated there were 690 grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem...down from 750 two years earlier.
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