PROMO Animal - Grizzly Bear on rock - USFWS

Feds propose plan to return grizzlies in Idaho’s Bitterroots

Eric Tegethoff

Click play to listen to this article.

Audio file

(Northern Rockies News Service) Grizzly bears could make a comeback in Idaho's Bitterroots under proposed plans from the federal government.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened its potential recovery plans for public comment. Grizzlies have recovered in two other parts of the West, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and North Continental Divide Ecosystem.

Jeff Abrams, wildlife program associate for the Idaho Conservation League, said it has not yet happened in the Bitterroots.

PROMO Map - Idaho State Map - iStock - klenger

© iStock - klenger

"Allowing them to move from these recovery zones that have seen these successes into a huge swath of the country that hasn't, and Idahoans in particular are in a place to be helpful in those conversations," Abrams asserted.

The Bitterroot Recovery Zone identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service covers about 6,000 square miles in central Idaho and a sliver of Montana. The public comment period for the plan is open through March 18.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed four alternatives for restoration: active reintroduction of grizzlies, natural recolonization, facilitating connectivity with other recovery zones or no action. Abrams said his organization favors a combination of natural recolonization and facilitating connectivity. But grizzly protections have been controversial in the region, with some saying enough bears already thrive there.

Abrams noted part of the recovery efforts will involve conflict management.

"Educating communities about bears being nearby, about bears potentially using habitat that folks like to recreate in, and how we can do that responsibly and safely is all part of the discussion," Abrams emphasized.

Abrams added it will take bold action to bring grizzlies back to the region.

"We can definitely develop a tenable plan for the Bitterroot with the right mix of vision, of leadership, and courage, which is what it's going to take, and the bears themselves have shown that this can be done," Abrams contended.