Today the Department of the Interior announced that it will remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species list, lifting federal regulations that, for 42 years, have protected the animal in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
In a statement, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he decided to lift the protections given the success of grizzly restoration efforts in Yellowstone. “This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of state, tribal, federal, and private partners,” Zinke said. “As a Montanan I am proud of what we’ve achieved together.”
Since the 1970s, the number of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has rebounded from fewer than 150 to more than 700 today, the New York Times notes. But despite the population increase, delisting the bear has been fiercely debated.
The number of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem years ago reached the initial recovery criteria of 500 bears set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Concerns persist, though, about whether the grizzly population is still too fragile to delist, given its isolation from other grizzly subpopulations. David Mattson, a biologist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, argues that the FWS does not account for necessary genetic diversity in its evaluation of grizzly populations. The worry is that because Yellowstone grizzlies are not genetically diverse, they are increasingly susceptible to health issues and illness. In addition, when FWS…