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Protected Status of Grizzlies in Montana

January 03, 1987

Times writer Ronald Taylor's article (Dec. 13) on grizzly bear management in Montana contained several misinterpretations, from the erroneous headline, "U.S. Acts to Drop Grizzlies from Protected Status," through much of the text.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not dropped the grizzly bear from protection under the Endangered Species Act, nor has it taken the first steps to do so.

What my agency has done is commence a process to determine the feasibility of delisting from threatened status the grizzly bear population of the Northern Rocky Mountain Ecosystem in Montana. This action is in harmony with our mandate under the Endangered Species Act to recover species, and delist them when their numbers support such a move.

Although signs indicate an upward trend in grizzly bear numbers along the northern Continental Divide, additional data must be developed to justify any change in the status of the Montana population.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will open discussions with Montana in January to decide on the best course of action to follow in meeting all of the necessary requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

I hasten to add that this action would not apply to grizzlies that live in other sections of the Rocky Mountain region--a fact buried in your article. Only a portion of Montana's population--about a third of the total estimated population of the species in the Lower 48 States--would be affected.

As for my discussing grizzlies in Montana "at a little-noticed meeting of a nonprofit foundation," I suppose such implied criticism depends upon your point of view. Accepting The Times' outlook on the world, I guess grizzly bear management is better broached in Beverly Hills than in Bozeman or Butte.

As a Montanan, however, I see nothing wrong with discussing grizzly bears in the areas where they are found. The citizens of Montana live in bear country and are entitled to at least equal consideration of their views on a subject that is certainly open to a variety of opinions.

FRANK DUNKLE

Washington

Dunkle is director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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