Managing Montana’s population of grizzly bears is front and center for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks as the agency looks to build on the momentum generated from the findings and recommendations of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council.
The GBAC’s recommendations and findings were delivered to Gov. Bullock, FWP leadership, and the interim legislative Environmental Quality Council in September. These findings and recommendations focus on grizzly bear distribution, conflict prevention and reduction, public outreach and education, and the importance of continuing the public dialogue on grizzly bear management across a wide swath of Montanans.
“The Council’s report really helps inform how to approach managing grizzly bears across their habitat in Montana,” said FWP director Martha Williams.
Developing a statewide grizzly bear management plan builds not only on work from the Council, including the vast amount of public input it received, but also on existing conservation strategies and a recently completely public survey done in partnership with the University of Montana.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of information and public input about grizzly bears in Montana,” Williams said. “We’re better positioned now than ever before to tackle a statewide grizzly bear plan. However, we know continued public outreach and involvement will be critical to our planning efforts moving forward.”
The Council’s recommendations and the public survey results make clear that the long-term viability of grizzly bears in Montana is important to citizens. Managing these bears in a way that recognizes and respects various values present across the landscape is also important.
Grizzly bears in the lower 48 are listed as threatened on the endangered species list. Montana is home to part or all of four recovery zones, delineated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, grizzly bear numbers in many areas are expanding and they’re moving into areas they haven’t occupied in decades. These areas are more populated by people and create more challenges and need for bear management and living with the animals as incidents of conflict increase. Both the Council’s findings and the survey results point to an interest in managing bears within these areas, which are clearly outside of the delineated recovery zones.
“There’s no doubt that figuring out how to craft a grizzly bear management plan that adequately addresses the challenges we are facing will be a tall order,” Williams said. The Council’s work has really provided us a boost in the effort. Now we will build on their strong work in developing a plan.”
To see the Council’s complete recommendations, please click here.
To read the announcement on the public survey FWP completed with the University of Montana, please click here.