Gov. Greg Gianforte’s petition to remove most Montana grizzly bears from federal Endangered Species Act protection claims the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem population is ready to survive under state management.
“Threats to this species have been ameliorated due to the decades of hard work on the part of Federal, State, Tribal, local, and private interests,” the petition’s executive summary states. “(C)rucial habitats are now secure, the population has been increasing for over three decades, and regulatory mechanisms are in place to assure that the species remains in little danger of again needing protection of the ESA.”
About 1,000 grizzlies inhabit the 9,600-square-mile ecosystem that extends from Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation south through the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Flathead Indian Reservation almost to Missoula. It is the most successful of six grizzly recovery areas established after the bear was given ESA protection in 1975. At that time, there were perhaps 600 grizzlies left in the Lower 48 states, down from an estimated 40,000 a century previous.
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Gianforte’s petition would do two things at the same time. It would declare the