Defenders of Wildlife Applauds Grizzly Recovery Plan, Highlights Local Citizen Input

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(11/16/2000) - Washington, DC - Calling it a model for collaborative work on species recovery, Defenders of Wildlife hailed the Record of Decision released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot ecosystem of central Idaho and western Montana. The plan includes an innovative Citizen Management Committee that will have a substantial role in steering the implementation of the grizzly recovery effort, within the rules of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

"The Citizen Management Committee will operate under the same rules that apply to other endangered wildlife recovery efforts: its actions must lead to recovery and it must use the best available science in making its decisions," said Hank Fisher, northern Rockies director for Defenders of Wildlife. "Within this broad framework under the plan we have endorsed, the committee will have considerable discretion to steer how recovery occurs."

Defenders of Wildlife applauded the recovery plan as the best approach to restore grizzly bears to their historical habitat in the rugged mountains of the region. The plan calls for at least five bears per year for five years to be reintroduced into wilderness areas in the Bitterroot ecosystem. Grizzlies relocated under this plan will be considered an "experimental" population under ESA guidelines, which will give the Citizens Management Committee and FWS more flexibility in restoring the species to the region while addressing local concerns. The 15 member committee will include citizens from Idaho and Montana, officials from each state’s wildlife agency, as well as representatives from FWS and the Nez Perce Tribe. A three-member scientific panel, appointed by governors of the two states and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, will arbitrate disputes the committee cannot resolve.

"The Citizens Management approach is the result of six years of hard work by a coalition of timber industry, labor, and conservation group representatives," said Mark Shaffer, senior vice president for programs at Defenders of Wildlife. "By working closely together as partners, the Intermountain Forest Association, the Resource Organization on Timber Supply (ROOTS), the National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife have forged a mechanism for both meaningful input by local citizens and flexibility in the plan for recovery of grizzlies in the Selway-Bitterroot. This collaborative approach is a model for working together on contentious endangered species issues."

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat, and has led efforts for carnivore conservation and restoration in the United States for more than 30 years. With more than 430,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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