Story at a glance

  • State officials petitioned the federal government to remove populations of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species list.
  • Officials claim the species has made a full recovery in the area.
  • Conservationists, however, have pushed back against that claim, arguing there’s no science behind it.

State officials in Wyoming are seeking to end federal protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), arguing the species has made a full recovery in the region and should now be managed by the state.  

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) on Tuesday announced he officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to remove populations of grizzlies in the region from the Endangered Species list, emphasizing that the species has been fully recovered since 2003 and there’s “no biological or legal reason” to keep the bears listed. 

“The GYE grizzly bear is ready to join the ranks of the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican as receiving proper recognition as a thriving, recovered and stable species,” Gordon said in a statement.  


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“Grizzly bears in the GYE are fully recovered and their management is now best entrusted to the experienced and capable institutions of the states. After all, Wyoming has invested more than $52 million and dedicated countless hours of Game and Fish expertise to reach this point,” Gordon added.  

According to the petition, state officials estimate the number of grizzly bears in the region has increased from as few as 136 in the 1970s to more than 1,000 currently.  

The USFWS has 90 days to review the petition. If approved, officials can take up to a year to further review and issue its recommendation.  

If the state’s request is ultimately granted, state wildlife managers would have authority over the species, which is currently classified as “threatened,” and likely allow hunting of the large carnivores.  

Conservationists, however, have pushed back against the claim that the grizzlies have made a full recovery, arguing there’s no science behind it.  

“This outrageous request from Wyoming’s governor is the latest attack on animals like grizzly bears by states that see them as little more than targets for trophy hunters,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.  

“Federal officials need to send a clear message by swiftly rejecting this request,” Zaccardi said.  

The move comes weeks after Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) petitioned the USFWS to delist grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Recovery Zone, which covers roughly 9,000 square miles in northwest Montana and is home to more than 1,000 bears. Gianforte said populations in the region have also surpassed recovery goals outlined by the state.  

Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. An estimated 50,000 grizzly bears lived in the western U.S. in 1800, but only a few hundred survivors remained by the 1930s due to hunting. 


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Published on Jan 12, 2022