Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it will begin a comprehensive Endangered Species Act (ESA) status review of the grizzly bear in two specific regions of the lower 48 states. The announcement, in today’s Federal Register, follows the agency’s review of three petitions to delist the bear, two of which they say presented “substantial, credible information” that may warrant action. 

“Delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies is premature,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “Equally concerning, delisting would condemn these vitally important animals to the whim of current state politics in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho where they are openly hostile to predator species like grizzly bears.”

Grizzly bears were once numerous, ranging across North America from California to the Great Plains, and from Mexico up to Alaska. Westward expansion, human transformation of the landscape, and fear led to near-eradication of grizzly bears in the continental U.S. When the grizzly bear was listed under the ESA in 1975, the grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states was down to less than 1,000 bears. Grizzly bears still occupy less than 6% of their former range in the lower 48.

Recognizing that human-bear conflicts were a leading cause of human-related grizzly bear deaths, Defenders initiated our grizzly bear conflict mitigation, or coexistence, program in the late 1990s. Since 1998, we have invested over $850,000 on projects in the lower 48 that prevent conflicts between bears and people.

For nearly 50 years, the ESA has given grizzly bears much-needed protections. As a result, bears in some populations have increased significantly, thanks to the success of dedicated and collaborative conservation and coexistence work. 

As a next step, FWS will conduct further analyses of the grizzly bear populations’ status in the Northern Continental Divide and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystems before releasing 12-month findings as to whether these specific populations should be separated from other lower 48 grizzlies and removed from the list of threatened species.

Grizzly Bear Family at the River - Gibbon River - Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming
Sam Parks

For over 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has remained dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come. To learn more, please visit https://defenders.org/newsroom or follow us on X @Defenders.


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