WILDLIFE -- The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revive a plan for relocate grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem in central Idaho and western Montana.
The agency first initiated a plan to return grizzly bears to the area in 1996. In 2000, the agency filed a reintroduction plan, but no actions has been taken.
"Grizzly bears live in less than 4 percent of their historic range and need to be reintroduced into the Selway-Bitterroot to have any shot at real recovery," said Andrea Santarsiere, a staff attorney at the Center. "The Service has repeatedly committed to reestablishing a grizzly bear population in this region. We’re just asking them to move forward with that commitment."
The Selway-Bitterroot was recognized as one of six grizzly bear recovery areas in the 1993 recovery plan for the species, which noted the importance the Selway-Bitterroot could play in connecting isolated bear populations, particularly the isolated population in Yellowstone National Park. The Selway-Bitterroot remains the only established recovery area without any documented resident grizzly bears.
According to the Center:
With more than 16 million acres of land, and centered around the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area and the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, the Selway-Bitterroot represents one of the largest contiguous areas of suitable habitat for grizzly bears in the western United States. It provides the most likely solution to long-term genetic concerns surrounding the Greater Yellowstone population. Scientists predict the area could support a population of 300 to 600 bears.