MISSOULA Some Montana conservation groups are protesting the way state is handling consideration of rules for protecting grizzly bears along the Northern Continental Divide, faulting Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) for having a “hidden agenda” for bear hunts.
The complaints come after FWP wrapped up a series of three hearings analyzing grizzly populations on the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) last week.
Agency managers say they’re developing plans to manage the grizzly populations in the eventuality that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) elects to remove the NCDE bears from federal protection.
But in a new letter protesting the hearings, leaders of groups like Wilderness Watch, Friends of the Bitterroot and the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force complain FWP is promoting a “sleeper” provision that “authorizes and requires sport hunting of grizzly bears”.
Although FWP leaders didn’t specifically talk hunting during the hearings, the protesters say the agency should have been more forthcoming about hunting be a management option.
FWP leaders did say last week they aren’t sure if de-listing will continue in the wake of last month’s ruling by a federal judge which blocked hunting near Yellowstone, faulting the Fish and Wildlife Service for considering grizzly populations in specific regions.
Comments can be submitted during the hearings and also online at fwp.mt.gov under “proposed grizzly bear ARM Rule,” or by mail to Grizzly Bear ARM, Wildlife Division, FWP, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or email FWPGRIZZLYBEARARM@mt.gov, and must be received no later than Oct. 26, 2018.