Nearly 30 years ago, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee was created to coordinate the wide range of state, federal and provincial resource agencies sharing responsibility for recovering the grizzly bear. It was with unique foresight that an entity such as IGBC was created to allow for the handoff to state and provincial wildlife agencies to manage grizzly populations once delisted, so that federal resources could be shifted to recovering other grizzly populations and other endangered species.
From a population standpoint, two ecosystems have reached goals set to signify biological recovery. But recovery is not based solely on biological factors, it is also highly dependent on human acceptance. For recovery to succeed, the people living and working in the recovery areas must feel and be included. Without human acceptance, all the biological fixes in the world will not bring back and sustain a species as envisioned by the Endangered Species Act.
We have a proven method to follow. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation began in the mid-1800s and is responsible for our greatest wildlife recoveries. The model utilizes conservation based on the best available science and, importantly, consideration of the role humans play. Paradoxically, much success has been driven by the support of those who hunt and fish, including the recovery of endangered species. Sportsmen dollars generated from license sales have worked to insure that the needed habitats exist for thousands of wildlife species and that populations are managed properly.
It is a shame that given the incredible accomplishments associated with grizzly bear recovery, there has been such uproar over the consideration of a statement to support the use of regulated hunting as a possible management approach for grizzly populations that are recovered and delisted. IGBC agencies have collectively and unanimously endorsed regulated hunting as one approach to promote coexistence, management of populations and reduce conflicts between bears and humans. Our support is limited to regulations that reflect the best available science, are established in a public process, and are consistent with standards in the ecosystem-specific conservation strategies.
The recovery of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems is an excellent example of how people living and working in grizzly country recognize the value of grizzly bears and represents one of the nation’s most significant conservation achievements. As recovery efforts continue to succeed, bears will move into areas occupied by people and conflicts will increase. Unchecked grizzly populations will compromise the value and tolerance people have for grizzlies. We know grizzly bears will require continuous management to minimize conflict with humans.
Waiting until delisting occurs to discuss options to manage bear numbers and distribution is irresponsible. The IGBC believes that it is important that an open and honest dialogue occur.