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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to
Withdraw Plan to Reintroduce Grizzly Bears into Bitteroot Ecosystem
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For Release June 21, 2001
                                   Mark Pfeifle/John Wright 202-208-6416
                                   Hugh Vickery 202-208-1456
                                   Sharon Rose 303-236-7917, x415

         U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE PROPOSES TO WITHDRAW PLAN
          TO REINTRODUCE GRIZZLY BEARS INTO BITTERROOT ECOSYSTEM

     The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to concentrate
recovery efforts and resources on existing grizzly bear populations in the
lower 48 states and to withdraw a plan to reintroduce grizzly bears into
the Bitterroot ecosystem of Idaho and Montana.

     AThe grizzlies deserve the best opportunities for their populations to
thrive and prosper and I am fully committed to the recovery of grizzly
bears in the lower 48 states,@ said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. A
Building support from state leaders is an important element to any
potential partnership of this size and scope. I am committed to ensuring
the support of the states, local communities, and all interested
stakeholders as we move forward with our grizzly bear recovery efforts.@

     There are approximately 1,100 grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, in
five separate populations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington. The
Service will continue actions to conserve and recover grizzly bears in the
Yellowstone ecosystem, where a grizzly population of 400 to 600 bears is
increasing two to four percent annually, and in the Northern Continental
Divide ecosystem, where grizzly populations are stable or increasing and
number 400 to 500 bears.  The Service will also continue to focus recovery
efforts and methods to preserve and increase populations in the Selkirk
ecosystem where there are 40  to 50 bears; the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, with
30 to 40 bears; and the Northern Cascade ecosystem where there are
approximately 5 bears.  Recovery programs include activities such as
improving management of grizzly bears on public lands, genetic research,
population monitoring, public education, and implementing the recovery
plans for each population.

     The Service spends approximately $450,000 annually on grizzly
recovery, and employs three full-time biologists dedicated to grizzly
recovery.

     In November 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a
Record of Decision for a Final Environmental Impact Statement to
reintroduce bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

     The Service is now reevaluating this Record of Decision and is
proposing a  ANo Action@ alternative. The public will have 60-days to
comment on the proposal before a final decision is reached. If the No
Action alternative is selected, grizzly bears would not be reintroduced
into the Bitterroot ecosystem.

     The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to carry out recovery
actions for listed species such as the grizzly bear. In doing this, the
Service has the discretion and flexibility to identify the highest priority
recovery activities while operating within its budget.

     The grizzly bear is listed as a threatened species in the lower 48
states under the Endangered Species Act. An estimated 50,000 grizzly bears
lived in the contiguous United States prior to European settlement.
Grizzly bears have been eliminated from approximately 98 percent of their
historic range in the lower 48 states.  Grizzlies are not listed as
threatened in Canada and Alaska where populations remain more numerous
(10,000 - 11,000 in British Columbia and 30,000 - 35,000 in Alaska).

    The preferred alternative selected in the Record of Decision in
November, called for establishment of a nonessential experimental
population of grizzlies in the Bitterroot ecosystem under section 10(j) of
the Endangered Species Act. The State of Idaho has sued to block the plan.

    The Service will publish a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register
within the next few days.   Public comments are requested and will be
accepted for 60 days after the Federal Register publication date. Comments
should be sent to: Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 5127,  Missoula, MT 59806 or electronically
mailed to fw6_bitterroot@fws.gov. More information on grizzly bears can be
found on the Service=s website: www.r6.fws.gov/endspp/grizzly.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
committed to conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants
and their habitats for the benefit of the American people. The Service
manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which
encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services
field stations.

    The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered
Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally
significant fisheries and conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as
wetlands. It also oversees the Federal Aid initiative that invests hundreds
of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to
state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                  - FWS -


      For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
                 visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

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