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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Requests Public Comment on Potential Impacts of Court Ruling on Lower 48 Grizzly Bears

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a Notice of Regulatory Review (NORR) in the Federal Register requesting public comment on any potential effects a recent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling may have on the Service’s June 30, 2017 final rule delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear Distinct Population Segment (DPS).

In this recent case, Humane Society of the United States et al. v. Zinke et al., the court found that the Service had not evaluated how delisting the Western Great Lakes (WGL) DPS of gray wolves would affect the remaining wolf populations that were still listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and what the effect of lost historical range may have on the status of the WGL wolf DPS. This court opinion may impact the GYE grizzly bear final delisting rule which, like the WGL wolf decision, designated a portion of an already listed species as a DPS and then revised that listed species by removing the DPS due to recovery.

Consequently, the Service is reviewing the potential implications for the GYE final delisting rule in light of this ruling and is seeking any public comments that would aid in this review. Specifically, the Service is interested in public input on whether this court’s opinion affects the GYE final delisting rule and what, if any further evaluation the Service should consider regarding the remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states and their lost historical range. The NORR also outlines the Service’s current strategy to recover all grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

Today’s announcement opens a 30-day public comment period, which will close on January 5, 2018. Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2017- 0089 FXES 11130900000C6-178-FF09E4200
By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R6–ES–2017–0089; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

The Service will address public comments and notify the public of its conclusions by March 31, 2018. The GYE final delisting rule remains in effect and the status of grizzly bears throughout the rest of the range remains unchanged.

The recovery of the GYE grizzly bear population serves as a remarkable conservation success story. It is the result of strong partnerships among the Service, federal and state agencies, tribes and other partners. GYE grizzly bear numbers have rebounded from as few as 136 bears when listed in 1975 to an estimated population of approximately 700 today.

For further information about today’s announcement and the nature of comments being sought, please contact Hilary Cooley, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University Hall, Room 309, Missoula, MT 59812; by telephone (406) 243-4903. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877-8339.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/.

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