Last week, the Bush administration's environmental top dog, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, announced the department's intentions to de-list grizzlies from the Endangered Species Act. When originally listed in 1975, grizzlies in the Yellowstone region numbered between 200 and 250. With a current population of over 600, proponents of the de-listing argue that the population restoration goals have not only been met but exceeded.
The de-listing will affect the Yellowstone population of grizzlies, leaving Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to manage grizzly populations, much as the de-listing of wolves has put population management under state control. However, conservation groups are split as to whether grizzly de-listing is a good thing for the population. Some conservationists believe it's possible de-listing would open up hunting of the animals beyond park borders (bears within national parks would still be protected under federal laws) and that habitat, which has been protected in order to boost grizzly numbers, will be available for development and again risk grizzly populations. Supporters of the de-listing include the National Wildlife Federation among a list of Republican congressmen, who are calling for changes in the Endangered Species Act that would allow for more animal species to be de-listed.
The Interior Department will allow a 90-day comment period before making a final decision on de-listing. Voice your opinion through February 16 at FW6_grizzly_yellowstone@fws.gov.