Safeguard Yellowstone's Grizzly Population

August 31, 2015

A Grizzly bear and her two cubs in Yellowstone National Park, Montana

Only about 1,500 to 2,000 grizzly bears remain in the Lower 48 states. They are spread out in a handful of subpopulations around the northern Rockies, with most found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, or NCDE, around Glacier National Park. To ensure their full recovery, scientists say, at least 2,000 to 3,000 bears must live in landscapes connected to one another. Yet multiple groups remain isolated, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to remove Greater Yellowstone and NCDE grizzlies from the Endangered Species List.

NRDC works to protect Yellowstone grizzlies and make sure they are connected to other bear populations through wildlife corridors. When the Fish and Wildlife Service previously attempted to prematurely remove protections, we sued and won. We are prepared to go back to court if the agency ignores the questions surrounding the future of Greater Yellowstone grizzlies and again tries to prematurely delist the species without adequate safeguards in place. We also take state and federal agencies to court when their plans fail to safeguard grizzly bears. Our lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Montana, for example, prevented new logging roads from being built in vital grizzly habitat in northwest Montana.

One of our central concerns about Yellowstone's grizzlies is their lack of connection to other bears. Moving over wide ranges and mating with bears from other subpopulations help keep these animals resilient, yet the Yellowstone bears largely remain on an “island.” NRDC is not only pushing for management actions that will help link Yellowstone grizzlies with the NCDE population but also supporting efforts to jump-start grizzly recovery in the North Cascades.

To further protect these animals, we are working to reduce conflicts between the bears and livestock. In two ranching valleys near Yellowstone National Park, NRDC is supporting and working with livestock producers to increase the use of proven nonlethal coexistence strategies, including range riders, electric fencing, and livestock carcass removal.