CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to remove Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies from the Endangered Species List.
The petition was filed “with the support” of Idaho and Montana, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
“This is an extraordinary and monumental success story for species recovery and should be celebrated,” Gordon said in the press release.
Yellowstone grizzlies were first delisted in 2017 after several decades on the Endangered Species List, according to the National Park Service. But they made it back on the list the next year after a federal judge restored their protections, saying the decision to delist was “the result of political pressure by the states rather than having been based on the best scientific and commercial data,” according to the decision.
In 1975, GYE grizzlies were considered near-extinct with their population hovering just above 130.
Their population has grown to about 728 as of 2019, according to the National Park Service, and is estimated to have surpassed 1,000 this year. USFWS considered their restoration a success. But they still face threats like habitat loss and food supply, environmentalists say.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to kill, harm, or harass GYE grizzlies, except in instances of self defense. Removing their protections would allow hunters to harvest bears for sport outside of the National Park.
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have separately approved a modified Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement establishing new management targets and discretionary management practices to keep the bear population well-above the minimum recovery level following delisting and affirmed their commitment to the bear’s genetic health and diversity.
The FWS has 90 days to review the petition. At that time the petition can be denied or approved for additional review. If that is the case, the FWS can take up to 12 months to further review and analyze the state’s request and come to a final decision.