Grizzly Comment Period Extended to January 14
December 16, 2004
John Emmerich, Assistant Wildlife Division Chief for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department,announced that the deadline for written comments on the Grizzly Bear Occupancy Management Plan has been extended from Dec. 31 to Jan. 14, 2005. "We want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to provide 'thoughtful comments' on our proposal, therefore we are extending the deadline an additional 14 days," said Emmerich.
Nearly 1100 people attended eleven information meetings in November and December concerning Game and Fish recommendations on how and where the department will manage grizzly bears in Wyoming once the bears are removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. The meetings held in Dubois, Riverton and Thermopolis drew the largest crowds--nearly 700 people in all.
The entire grizzly bear occupancy management plan proposal is posted on the Department's website http://gf.state.wy.us under "What's New: Grizzly Bear Occupancy." Comments may be submitted online at http://gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/GBOccupancy/index.asp or by mail to: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn: Grizzly Bear Occupancy, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q: How many bears are there right now?
A: Using the best science available today, the point estimate for grizzlies at this time is approximately 680 bears within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Q: Paid ads in some local newspapers and on some radio stations state that trailheads will be closed, snowmobiling will be curtailed, grazing will be eliminated and other human related recreation will be affected by the Department's proposal. Is this true?
A: No. These ads do not accurately reflect the Department's proposal and have caused a great deal of confusion among readers and listeners. Contained within the Forest Service's forest plan amendments draft EIS are four alternatives. Much of the information that is contained within the paid advertising comes from Alternative 4. The NEPA EIS process requires identification of a range of alternatives to be analyzed for possible implementation. Alternative 4 was developed in response to public interests that felt their concerns were not addressed in the alternatives considered during the Forest Service scoping process. The Forest Service did an analysis of their concerns and as a result created Alternative 4, which is not the Forest Service's preferred alternative. The Department also endorsed Alternative 2.
Q: How does the draft plan affect private property?
A: Grizzly bear dispersal and occupancy will be discouraged through regulated hunting and agency removal of nuisance bears on private land outside of the GBCA. Essentially, the Department will do all it can to minimize conflicts with domestic livestock and humans through a responsive conflict resolution program and managing for low bear densities.
Q: Why is the Department revising the occupancy section?
A: The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission formally adopted the Wyoming Grizzly Bear Management Plan at its February 2002 meeting. After adoption, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (Department) agreed to further refine the grizzly bear occupancy guidelines following public requests to do so. This commitment came after concern was expressed that the occupancy section initially described in the plan was too vague in terms of how bears would be managed within the potential occupancy outer boundary delineated in the Plan. The outer boundary includes significant amounts of private property and habitats that are unsuitable for bear occupancy.
Q: Where will grizzly bears potentially occur under the Department's proposal?
A: The geographic area described in the Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy and designated the Grizzly Bear Data Analysis Unit (GBDAU) in the Wyoming Grizzly Bear Management Plan, establishes the outer boundary where grizzly bears could potentially occur. Specifically, it includes an area with an outer boundary beginning at the intersection of Wyoming Highway 120 and the Montana border; southerly along said highway though Cody and Meeteetse to U.S. Highway 20 in Thermopolis; southerly along said highway to Wyoming Highway 789 in Shoshoni; southwesterly along said highway to Wyoming Highway 134; westerly along said highway to Wyoming Highway 132; southerly along said highway to U.S. Highway 287; southeasterly along said highway to Wyoming Highway 28 approximately eight miles south of Lander; southerly along said high to U.S. Highway 191 in Farson; northerly along said highway through Pinedale to U.S. Highway 189; southerly along said highway to U.S. Highway 30 in Kemmerer; west along said highway to the Utah border.
Q: Does the Department intend to allow bears to use all of this geographic area?
A: Absolutely not. The outer boundary, or GBDAU, is simply the most logical line that could be drawn on a map that encompasses the area where a wandering grizzly could show up in the foreseeable future. There are many areas within the GBDAU that are socially unacceptable for grizzly occupancy. Examples are the (Wyoming Range, the southern Wind Rivers, and on private property adjacent to the GBCA). The Department will implement regulated hunting seasons and removal of nuisance bears to discourage dispersal and occupancy in areas designated as socially unacceptable.
Q: How many bears will the WGFD be managing for?
A: According to the Conservation Strategy, the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho must maintain the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear population at a minimum of 500 bears once delisting has occurred. Should the number drop close to or below 500 an effort to re-list the grizzly as threatened will occur. It will be necessary to manage for a population of more than 500 bears to prevent re-listing. The Department's management will be designed to lower grizzly densities in currently occupied habitat with high levels of human use/bear conflicts, in particular on private lands, but also on some areas of public land outside the primary conservation area (PCA) where human use/bear conflicts are frequent.
Q: Does the proposal expand the current range of grizzly bears in Wyoming?
A: Yes, but only to some degree south and west of Jackson Hole. The occupancy proposal allows bears to occupy National Forest Service lands in Northwest Wyoming that can biologically support grizzly bears and where human/bear conflicts are expected to be manageable. This area is designated in the proposal as the Grizzly Bear Conservation Area (GBCA). Except for the low number of bears in the north end of the Wind River Mountains and absence of bears south and west of Jackson, the entire area is currently occupied.