At a two-day meeting in West Yellowstone that wraps up today, representatives of state, federal and tribal agencies raised several concerns about the proposed removal of the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list.
The agency proposing delisting is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In an interview with Montana Public Radio Monday, the head of the Service, Dan Ashe, said it’s bracing for legal challenges.
"Everything that we do in the context of the Endangered Species Act, especially when we're talking about species like this, it ends up in court … These are issues of significance, like I said, people are concerned about them, and people will differ in their reading of the science, and the policy on these issues, and the courts are the places where those things get worked out."
In 2007, the agency tried to delist the grizzly but was stopped by a lawsuit from environmental groups.
Officials have been gathering public response to a new plan to delist, released in March.
Representatives from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are now raising several concerns about delisting the grizzly, including the fear that it could further endanger the animal.
The Fish and Wildlife Service says it has data to support the recovery of the species, and argues that it has met the criteria for delisting. But outside critics like retired federal grizzly bear biologist David Mattson, who lives near Livingston, disagree.
"If you have a population at risk because of the unraveling of the ecosystem, where it’s at a tipping point, where we’re likely to see worse things to come, now is not the time to be pulling away the safety net."
The governors of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho all support delisting, as do their state wildlife management agencies. The Fish and Wildlife Service is gathering public input on its delisting proposal until May 10. Its goal is to make a final decision on whether delisting goes forward by the end of this year.