Montana introduces new bill to allow states to manage grizzly bears
With the federal government taking possible first steps towards delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone ecosystems, a new bill aims to give states the ability to decide how grizzly bears should be managed. This week, Senate Bill 295 (SB 295) was introduced by the Senate Fish and Game Committee by a bipartisan group of 38 Republican and four Democratic lawmakers.
SB 295, which is sponsored by Montana State Sen. Bruce Gillespie (R-Ethridge), would allow the state’s fish and wildlife commission “the ability to manage grizzly bears should they be delisted,” according to NBC Montana. If approved, the bill would give the commission permission to establish rules that would allow livestock owners the ability to “take lethal action” if the grizzly is found “attacking or killing their livestock,” establish a quota for grizzly killings and provide a direct line for livestock owners to file complaints to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP).
“If we can be 100% certain we are eliminating the grizzly bears responsible for depredations, fewer bears will be removed from the population incidentally, which only makes grizzly bear conservation more successful,” said Trina Jo Bradley, executive director for the Rocky Mountain Front Rangelands Group. “It would also eliminate the issue of generations of problem bears that have been bred on the Rocky Mountain Front.”
Supporters of SB 295 include FWP, Montana Woolgrowers Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Farmers Union, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, Treasure State Resources Association, Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the city of Choteau and Montana Sportsmen Alliance.
However, there are opponents to the bill who feel that it “prioritizes lethal methods” and could be “exploited by hunters.” The language does not specify whether the proposed “actions” are limited to private land or can take place on both private and public.
“While it sets a quota for the total number of bears that can be killed under this, it continues to have places where it allows bears to be killed that are threatening livestock,” said Nick Gevock, spokesman for the Endangered Species Coalition. “In other places, it allows rancher take outside of any commission-established quota.”
Others against SB 295 include the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Montana Audubon, Montana Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Explore Livingston.
Stay tuned to GOHUNT for further updates.