Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council Finalizes Recommendations

Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council Finalizes Recommendations

The Montana Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council (GBAC) has released its final report and recommendations. The 18 citizens appointed in July, 2019 by Governor Bullock were charged with developing recommendations for fundamental guidance and direction on key issues and challenges related to the conservation and management of grizzly bears in Montana, particularly on topics where there is significant variability in public opinion. These issues included connectivity, distribution, conflict prevention and response, transplant protocols, role of hunting, and long-term resource sustainability for the conservation and management of grizzly bears. The GBAC met 15 times and received over 16,000 public comments.

The GBAC agreed on a shared vision of fully recovered grizzly bear populations in the four identified recovery areas in Montana and landscapes in-between that accommodate grizzly bear presence and connectivity while maintaining the safety and quality of life of those that live, work, and play in Montana. The GBAC reached consensus on 18 guiding principles for future planning and management of grizzly bears by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP) as well as 39 recommendations on education and outreach; conflict prevention and reduction; conflict response and protocols; grizzly bear distribution, relocation, and connectivity; and the resources needed to achieve their vision. With respect to resources, the GBAC recommended that MFWP and the legislature establish additional bear management specialist and technician positions to address the expanding bear population and find ways to broaden funding sources.

Not surprisingly, the GBAC was not able to reach consensus on the potential role of hunting in the future if grizzly bears are removed from the list of threatened species. While 14 members supported including the option of restoring closely regulated grizzly bear hunting in the future, four members argued that hunting is neither necessary nor appropriate for future management. The GBAC’s final report provides arguments both for and against hunting grizzly bears. The members who support restoring hunting provided 12 recommendations the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission should consider, if a hunting season is established.

MFWP is preparing a statewide grizzly bear management plan informed by the GBAC’s deliberations. The new plan will replace the separate Southwest and Northwest Montana grizzly bear management plans and provide direction to achieve the GBAC’s vision of a functional meta-population distributed across the western part of the state.

September 15, 2020