The US Fish and Wildlife Service says they are working on a draft proposal to remove Yellowstone grizzlies from the Endangered Species Act.
Once delisted, the western states could sanction hunting seasons for the big bears for the first time in decades.
A letter from Dan Ashe, USFWS director, suggests the agency in charge of delisting Yellowstone grizzlies could publish such a proposal by the end of 2015.
Of course, that would only be the beginning. A proposal would elicit rigorous amounts of public comment and criticism. Just like in 2007, when Yellowstone grizzlies were delisted, but the process was halted by a lawsuit in 2009 brought by a host of environmental groups.
All three states involved, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, have urged Ashe and the USFWS to take necessary action for delisting. Estimates of the exact number of Yellowstone grizzlies vary; some studies put the population as high as 1,200, which is, incidentally, double the recovery goal of 600.
Counting bears is certainly an inexact science. That fact alone could be cause for more lawsuits from environmentalists, who attack the estimated numbers as too uncertain. Of course everyone wants more bears, until they are killing your livestock or mauling someone in your backyard. Then there are Native American tribes, who believe the grizzly is sacred and should not be hunted.
There remains a long road ahead for the delisting process of Yellowstone grizzlies, but this is a positive first step. Maybe one day, you’ll be able to hunt the iconic Ursus arctos horribilis in such breathtaking landscapes as the rugged mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.