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Group urges release of grizzly bears in Selway-Bitterroot

Grizzly bears are expanding their range in the West. (Kim Keating / U.S. Geological Survey)
Grizzly bears are expanding their range in the West. (Kim Keating / U.S. Geological Survey)

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.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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