Next year’s budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery plan is half of the last allotment of $150,000, leaving the project’s leader wondering about the future.
How the effort in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness will continue on $75,000 is up for debate, even within the agency.
Chris Servheen, the bear recovery coordinator in Missoula, said completing the final version of the environmental impact statement could be jeopardized.
“I’m trying to make do with what we have,” he said. “It’s always more difficult when you have less.”
He said staff reductions may be necessary.
Regional officials in Denver said the cuts were anticipated.
“We’ve been given less money but we need less money,” said Jill Parker, deputy assistant regional director of Fish and Wildlife.
Parker said producing a final environmental impact study will not be as expensive as previous drafts.
“Everybody is lobbying for a very small pot of money. Endangered species are not a priority of this Congress,” she said.
The federal government’s plan to return grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem along the Idaho-Montana border was up for comment until Dec. 1.
Now, a team is compiling comments, a task expected to be complete by month’s end.