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Interagengy Grizzly Bear Committee recommends USFWS delist......

Big Fin

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One step closer.

I've been involved in the Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy since 2000. In 2000, the Governors of MT, ID, and WY petitioned the USFWS to form a committee to provide state input to the plan the USFWS was putting together. It was called the Governors' Grizzly Bear Roundtable. I was one of the five people who spent three years representing Montana as we worked with the Feds to coordinate their management strategy with the states, upon eventual delisting.

We met for two days every quarter with the USFWS and the IGBC over the course of two years. The first year was mostly pouring over each section of the Conservation Strategy, listening to their science, and asking questions. The last meetings were mostly providing comment and suggestion to this Conservation Strategy. It finalized with a series of recommendations that the Feds agreed to implement into their draft CS.

We all then went back to our respective states help formulate the state plans that would be in place upon eventual delisting. The goal was to make sure the state plans would comply with the CS and once state control was granted, would manage GBs at a level to prevent the Feds from coming in and re-listing bears.

The biologists who drafted this Conservation Strategy know more about Grizzly Bears than any biologists in the world. The environmental groups have their "hired guns" to fight and scream about this plan, but putting those hired hacks up against these IGBC and USFWS biologists is like sending Pee Wee Herman to fight Mike Tyson.

The agency folks we worked with, both Federal and State, DO have an agenda. That agenda is to get the Grizzly Bear delisted.

They are tired of the hassles and haggling that comes from the continued lawsuits by these wing nut groups. These biologists have done some remarkable work, almost too good, in getting GB numbers far beyond what anyone had expected when some of these folks started their careers 25-40 years ago. For delisting to occur, it would be a big professional accomplishment for them.

The USFWS has already issued delisting rulings on the GB. Every time, it gets taken to courts and some judge who doesn't know chicken spit from chicken chit as it relates to wildlife science, sends them back to the drawing board to address some obscure issue that has already been addressed, but evidently not explained well enough that an attorney or judge can understand.

That is what has happened here. The USFWS issued a delisting notice in 2010/11. The wingnuts sued, claiming the Whitebark Pine, a food source for GBs was going extinct due to climate change and GBs would starve to death. The Whitebark Pine issue had already been addressed in the conservation strategy, but not to the satisfaction of the judge.

So, now the biologists have proven that the Yellowstone GBs are going to do just fine, regardless of the supposed plight of Whitebark Pines.

Yellowstone GBs have always had a far higher diet of animal protein than GBs studied anywhere else in the world. Their heavy reliance on meat, augmented with the other food options, has mitigated the implied claim that GBs are vegans feeding only on Whitebark Pine.

But, all of this serves as just one skirmish of what will be a longer battle, the same as the wolf delisting, but probably even more fevered.

The Federal biologists and their science is what is being litigated. The bank accounts of the wingnut groups is what is benefiting. Wildlife and locals living with GBs is what/who is being abused by these lawsuits.

In this case, the courts will see that the wingnuts claim was wrong and will rule with the USFWS. But, the wingnuts already have the next plan for delaying state control. They have found some other obscure portion of the plan(s) that they will litigate.

They know they will lose, but to them, the GB is not a bear, rather a bovine - "Cash Cow." They are getting rich fighting this. I live in the same town most these "drive-by ligitators" are based. Their actions make it very obvious that their concern of GBs, wolves, lynx, etc. only extends to the point that it can help their finances.

Here is how hunting became part of the Conservation Strategy.

The original Conservation Strategy as drafted and submitted to the Governors' Roundtable did not have hunting as an option. I was the only person specifically charged to represent hunters on the Roundtable. Some members were hunters, though they were there to represent other constituents.

My entire approach was how will this affect hunters, not just the eventual hunting of GBs. The wingnuts wanted to reduce hunter activity on public lands adjacent to the Greater Yellowstone area during September/October to reduce human-bear conflicts. Over my dead body.

One ground rule of our group was that the Roundtable must have unanimous consent on every topic. If unanimous consent was not obtained, that item would not be part of our recommendations.

We were all given one topic that would make or break our support for the plan and for our list of recommendations to the plan. My "make or break" issue was the expectation that hunting would be the management tool used by the states. That recommendation was part of the final draft given to the Feds, signed on to by the Governors, and adopted in the associated state plans.

The plan now being litigated does include the expectation that states will use hunting as a management tool when GBs are delisted. GBs will be managed by the three states as a big game animal, the same as we do all other species. And as such, the states will make sure the GB population levels do not get to a point where the Conservation Strategy would force the Feds to come in and re-list GBs.

There are a lot of GBs in the Greater Yellowstone area. When you spend months talking with these biologists and they show you their data, it is very eye-opening. They don't have exact numbers, due to tracking difficulty, but their absolute minimums are very conservative. They make sure to tell people these are "minimums," but those minimums are always taken to be the actual population, which we all know is wrong.

If I were to bet money, my money would be bet on a scenario similar to this. The USFWS wins this one when it gets back in court. The wingnuts then attack the state plans via weak spots they can convince a judge to reject; same as they did with wolves. They will then find the weakest of the three state plans and attack that state's plan with a full on assault, making the claim that all three states must have the same level of protection, just as they did in the wolf battle. They will win short battles, but the states will make any necessary changes and will eventually prevail.

I would guess we have at least three more rounds of court battles ahead of us, but by 2016, or shortly thereafter, the states will have control over GBs in the Greater Yellowstone area. And yes, if the state plans are followed by the state agencies and their legislatures, there will be limited hunting of GBs in those states.

One big problem hunters will have is to keep legislators from mingling with the state plans. These plans have the support of the USFWS. If legislators start tinkering, then the entire process will be set back to the drawing board, as the delisting recommendation by the USFWS is based on these plans and the existing laws in the three states.

We almost lost wolf delisting because some extremists funded by Utah groups talked legislators into proposing bills that would tinker with the approved state wolf plans. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and those bills were defeated.

Patience is hard to find when we feel abused by the process, as we have been with GBs and wolves. But, we will prevail, so long as we don't mess up the path this is set to follow.
 

Ben Lamb

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Amen Randy.

While I doubt I'll ever put in for a tag, limited hunting of grizz is a perfectly acceptable method of managing the great bruin. Just as we've done with the wolf, the "radical middle" will win. ;)
 

Big Fin

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I'm not sure I would even apply, given I have already shot a brown bear in AK.

But, the fact that we have proven to the world that Montana, and the other two states, are able to live with a burgeoning grizzly bears population in our back yard is a "put that in your pipe and smoke it" accomplishment. We don't need these outsiders telling us how to manage landscapes. Yes, they feel they have some say, as it is Federal land, but once delisted, GBs become a state management issue. State control is a successful model and having a grizzly hunt would show our model; a model heavily reliant on hunters and hunting, is again the way to manage wildlife, no matter the screaming and yelling it may cause among those who view wildlife as their personal cash flow stream.

I may change my mind on not applying. I will offer to help be the sub-guided with Critter.

How cool would it be to film the first televised GB hunt in the Lower 48? If I thought I got a lot of "love letters" for airing the fist televised wolf hunt, I can only imagine what would come from the first televised GB hunt. What a conservation story that would be.
 

Randy11

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I heard from my wife's cousin's brother's dad's dog's neighbor's therapist that those within FWP are pushing to start off with a quota rather than a permit system.

Anyone within the know have a yea or nay on that?

It sure does look like it's starting to take the wolf path to delisting, which is unfortunate. At least we're dealing with a lot more steady population than we were with wolves.
 

Big Fin

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I heard from my wife's cousin's brother's dad's dog's neighbor's therapist that those within FWP are pushing to start off with a quota rather than a permit system.

Anyone within the know have a yea or nay on that?

Given the human-caused mortality limits in each of the units within the Primary Conservation Area, I seriously, I mean very seriously, doubt they would have a quota system. If you read the plan and the allowed human-caused mortality, along with the female subquota mortality limits, a quota system would be very hard to rationalize to those who fought against delisting.

I suspect it would be a drawing for a very, very, small number of tags, with heavy emphasis on hunter orientation to try focus the harvest in areas and at times that increase the likelihood that only boars are taken. I don't even want to think about the mess created if it is a free for all quota system where guys know the quota will close in a day, resulting in more human-caused mortality than is allowed under the plan and reading how a couple cubs are now orphaned.

Agencies are going to be extremely careful. I suspect collared bears would be off limits. Obviously, females with cubs will be off limits. Given the data I have seen there are some areas where the habitat is saturated with GBs. When I read reports of a conflict in those areas, it comes as no surprise, having seen the data these scientists have in those spots. Taylor's Fork, Sage Creek, Cabin Creek, south of Hebgen, Upper Yellowstone (east and west of Gardiner) have ridiculous densities and are probably the most obvious areas to have the first permits.

Understand, this current delisting is only for the Greater Yellowstone population, not the GBs in NW Montana.
 

2rocky

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I've hunted in Grizzly bear habitat since 2005 in Western Wyoming.

I have seen fresh tracks, and bumped two grizzlies in thick cover. Neither of those presented a shot opportunity if I'd wanted one.

I think it could get pretty tough to fill a GB tag after a couple of seasons. That said I sure would love to try. Probably more than a wolf.
 

Nameless Range

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Taylor's Fork, Sage Creek, Cabin Creek, south of Hebgen, Upper Yellowstone (east and west of Gardiner) have ridiculous densities and are probably the most obvious areas to have the first permits.

While scouting for Moose this summer I saw 2 Griz in the Henry's Lake Range, one of which was on the shore of Hebgen near Cherry Creek Campground. The weekend before the season began I spooked one while I was driving down the South Fork of the Madison Road, South of Hebgen Lake.

Whenever it happens, it will be interesting to see how many tags they will allow for draw. 2 or 3? It would be a pretty amazing tag to come by, and grizzlies live in great country.
 

cur dog

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Randy, as always, your explanations are very educational. Thanks for all you do.
 

Randy11

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Given the human-caused mortality limits in each of the units within the Primary Conservation Area, I seriously, I mean very seriously, doubt they would have a quota system. If you read the plan and the allowed human-caused mortality, along with the female subquota mortality limits, a quota system would be very hard to rationalize to those who fought against delisting.

I suspect it would be a drawing for a very, very, small number of tags, with heavy emphasis on hunter orientation to try focus the harvest in areas and at times that increase the likelihood that only boars are taken. I don't even want to think about the mess created if it is a free for all quota system where guys know the quota will close in a day, resulting in more human-caused mortality than is allowed under the plan and reading how a couple cubs are now orphaned.

Agencies are going to be extremely careful. I suspect collared bears would be off limits. Obviously, females with cubs will be off limits. Given the data I have seen there are some areas where the habitat is saturated with GBs. When I read reports of a conflict in those areas, it comes as no surprise, having seen the data these scientists have in those spots. Taylor's Fork, Sage Creek, Cabin Creek, south of Hebgen, Upper Yellowstone (east and west of Gardiner) have ridiculous densities and are probably the most obvious areas to have the first permits.

Understand, this current delisting is only for the Greater Yellowstone population, not the GBs in NW Montana.

Thanks Fin.

It'll be interesting for sure to see how it shakes out. I hope they go with a spring and fall season.

I wonder if they'd be tempted to do a governors tag on it also, gotta imagine that'd get steep fast.
 
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