The Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Coordinating Committee is meeting in Pray, MT on Nov 30 – Dec 1.
The committee, formerly known as the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, is having its important Fall meeting this week. The agenda is posted below (our highlights).
Two main things to note:
First, the annual IGBST GYE grizzly bear population estimate will be released. This is the single most important statistic in grizzly management.
In the past few years we have seen declines in the population from 757 in 2014, to 723, and finally to 695 in 2016.
Second and even more important, the committee will be discussing the process required to CHANGE THE CONSERVATION STRATEGY.
This is deeply disturbing, especially considering the Strategy just went into effect a mere 4 months ago.
The Conservation Strategy is the general blueprint for maintaining the “recovered” status of grizzlies. It is a lengthy document, and is in many respects very detailed, but it is important to note that it is NOT a legally binding document.
What changes the YGBCC is contemplating are not yet known, but this can’t be good for grizzlies.
One possibility that we consider most likely is that they will change the monitoring method to a new one that results in a larger population estimate. There is an agenda item that hints at this.
Note that estimating grizzly bear populations involves a complex algorithm. Change the algorithm and you change the estimate. They have changed the algorithm before and there is no reason why they wouldn’t do it again. And of course they will justify it by saying that it will result in more accurate estimates.
Whether that is actually true is debatable. Counting grizzlies is very difficult and there is a lot of wiggle room for grizzly managers to juggle the assumptions that are at the heart of the algorithm.
In any case, a larger estimate would allow a larger number of grizzlies to be hunted.
The good news is that there is a legally binding document that is also very detailed. It is the so-called “Final Rule.”
The Final Rule, published in the Federal Register is actually a law, legally binding and enforceable.
But as with all laws, it is subject to interpretation. And some aspects of the Final Rule, such as conflict management and funding for grizzly management were left dangerously vague.
This, the first major meeting of grizzly bear managers since delisting, is a hugely important meeting and will give a sense of how grizzly management will proceed in the GYE.