WASHINGTON D.C.: The Biden administration has indicated that it could end federal protection for grizzly bears in the northern Rocky Mountains, which would allow future hunting in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, state officials have provided "substantial" information that in the regions surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, grizzlies have recovered from the threat of extinction.
However, federal officials warned about new laws from Republican-led states that could potentially harm grizzly populations, and rejected claims by Idaho that protections should be lifted beyond those areas.
"We will fully evaluate these and other potential threats," said Martha Williams, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as quoted by the Associated Press.
In a letter released this week, Williams told the head of Montana's wildlife agency that a law allowing grizzlies to be killed if they attack livestock was inconsistent with the state's commitment to bear conservation.
In recent years, Republican lawmakers in the region have also made more aggressive moves against gray wolves, including allowing trapping, which could unintentionally harm grizzlies.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte welcomed the administration's announcement, claiming that it will allow his state to reclaim management of a species placed under federal protection in 1975, and adding that the recovery of the grizzly population "represents a conservation success."
Meanwhile, hunting guide Dave Evans from Wood River Ranch in Meeteetse, Wyoming said the issue is complicated, adding that he can understand why people fall on both sides of the debate.
"You have so many opinions and some of them are not based on science, but the biologists are the ones that know the facts about what the populations are and what should be considered a goal for each area. If you are going to manage grizzly bears, there is a sustainable number that needs to be kept in balance. I am not a biologist, but I would follow the science," Evans said, according to the Associated Press.