Commission wants to petition for delisting

By JEFF GEARINO Southwest Wyoming bureau
Casper Star-Tribune


SHERIDAN, WYOMING -- Not trusting the feds to do the job, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission agreed Tuesday to keep responsibility for managing grizzly bears in the state, but to actively try and get the animal off the Endangered Species list.

The commissioners agreed they would like to file a petition to delist the grizzly bear, hoping that might speed up the process of removing the animal's federal protections. They also agreed to continue funding grizzly bear management in Wyoming while they explore whether the board has the legal authority to submit a delisting petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The commission rejected a motion by Commissioner Linda Fleming "to get out of the grizzly bear business" and return management to the USFWS.

When Commissioner Hale Kreycik asked what the commission could do to expedite the delisting process, Commissioner Doyle Dorner suggested filing a delisting petition with the USFWS immediately.

"We've met all the criteria placed before the state," Dorner said. "A petition for delisting could be a good, pro-active strategy to show the Service we're serious about delisting ... and that we want this process to move forward," he said.

Game and Fish Department Director Brent Manning recommended giving the Game and Fish some time "to see if we have the legal authority to ask for a delisting petition and if so ... let's try it."

Fleming said the state ought to just get out of the business of managing grizzly bears, regardless.

She noted the continuing, extremely high cost to the state's hunters and anglers of managing the grizzly bear in Wyoming.

The state spent approximately $1.4 million in both direct and general wildlife-associated costs to manage the grizzly bear in 2002, according to Game and Fish data.

"This financial burden ... is excessive," she said. "We should at least consider if we want to be in the grizzly bear business or not ... there may be some other alternatives."

But commissioner Bill Williams said he was hesitant to support the motion, especially since the state recently signed onto the three-state conservation strategy that is part of the delisting requirements. He also questioned the Service's ability to manage grizzlies in Wyoming.

"If we turn over management to the Service, I have little faith in their ability to manage grizzlies as well as we do," he said. "It will generate a lot of ill will and (probably) a lot more damage claim cases."

Kreycik agreed: "As badly as I'd like to get the department off the hook ... let's follow the petition for delisting and see if that's a viable (way) to expedite this and give time for the conservation strategy that we agreed upon to work."


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