Wyoming governor wants quicker review of Yellowstone bear protections


Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to expedite a review of federal protections for Yellowstone bear populations, saying the state is frustrated with federal grizzly bear management at state expense. (USFWS photo by Terry Tollefsbol - click to enlarge)

By Ruffin Prevost

CODY, WYO. — Wyoming governor Matt Mead has written to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking for the removal of federal protections for grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act, saying the Yellowstone bear situation is “severe and costly” for Wyoming.

Mead said he hoped to accelerate what could be a two-year review and analysis of how changes in Yellowstone bear habitat and food sources might affect the grizzly’s status as a protected species.

“Two years is too long and the cost is too great,” Mead wrote.

Wildlife managers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department work cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage bears in Wyoming, but the federal agency has final authority over the animals across the state and the greater Yellowstone area, including in Montana and Idaho.

“Wyoming’s investment in recovery over the past 28 years exceeds $35 million. The average annual cost to Wyoming for grizzly management approaches $2 million,” Mead wrote. “This is paid by Wyoming hunting license revenue, not United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) grants and Wyoming does not have jurisdiction for the bears—the USFWS does.”

Yellowstone bear advocates say grizzlies should remain under federal protection, particularly as whitebark pine trees across the region are threatened by disease and insects. Some environmental groups say the whitebark pine nut is an important but dwindling Yellowstone bear food source, but some state and federal wildlife managers say grizzlies appear to be adapting well by finding other food sources.

“Many knowledgeable people, including grizzly bear scientists within the Department of Interior, believe the species is unquestionably recovered within the Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Mead wrote.

The Yellowstone bear count is estimated at about 600 grizzlies, a number that includes grizzly bears inside the park and in adjacent core recovery areas in the greater Yellowstone area in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

Mead cited as a concern four fatal Yellowstone bear incidents over the last two years that occurred in and around the park, as well as bear-related property damage.

Recalling recent success in working with Salazar on cooperative management of Northern Rockies gray wolves and greater sage-grouse, Mead said he was hoping for similar “cooperative work on the grizzly bear.”

Some wildlife advocates have said that grizzlies should remain under federal control until Yellowstone bear populations become more firmly established across the region. Groups have also expressed concern that allowing hunting of grizzly bears managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department or other state agencies could result in serious setbacks for their continuing recovery.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

3 thoughts on “Wyoming governor wants quicker review of Yellowstone bear protections

  1. It is always asking a great deal of a conservative Republican leader to consider things like biologic science , functional ecology when scoping an issue , let alone think further down the timeline than the next election cycle. All that shakers movers and deciders of the Mead persuasion seem to consider are the narrow values and talking points that are expressed in dollars, and dollars alone. Scrape the hide off grizzly bear or wolf management and you find a rancher or hunter waiting to refill their leather wallet.

    Were I of sufficient craftsmanship, I would build Gov. Matt a fine rustic Molesworth-style club chair using Whitebark Pine so that when he sits to ponder the larger picture about wildlife management, that portion of his body that does the most thinking , and where his wallet resides, is closest to said Whitebark Pine. I’m still contemplating how to work Army cutworm moths, Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, and a map of all the suitable grizzly habitat that is off limits to G. bears into the chair’s overall design.

    I’m all for limited quota trophy hunts of Grizzly bears, provided they don’t become Ursucide as Wyoming’s wolf management scheme has become Canicide. It is the 21st century , after all.

  2. I learned more about this from DeweyV reply than Mead’s letter. Mead lists many problems but offers no solutions. Perhaps if he were to offer funds to speed up the science it wouldn’t take 2 years. And if we had not hunted the grizzly to near extinction Wyoming and the feds wouldn’t be spending millions to preserve a symbol of the original wild America. Be a problem solver Mead, not a winer.

  3. Are you nuts? Are you assuming that you will get “Do Overs” when suddenly the grizzlies are gone?
    Do you not know the famous saying about how ‘first they came for the Jews, but I did not speak, since I was not a Jew… Then they came for the intellectuals, but I did not speak, etc. Then they came for me, and there was noone left….’ Don’t you see beyond the end of your nose to the fact that there’s NO GOING BACK!!!!!